When we call ourselves activists, but remain inactive, what are we doing?
A user on Facebook badges himself, identifies himself in support of a cause. A user plays Freerice.com every day, clicking to donate money in miniscule amounts, knowing that if 15,000 others do the same, a difference can be made. A user rants on her Tumblr, dragging the actions of another user into the light to be seen. Are these actions?
A student at a party argues over beers about socialized health care, instigating a dialogue with others. A woman teaches her child to donate their unwanted clothes, clothes they cannot wear any longer. Are these actions?
Its easy to point at the Internet when we call each other out, when we talk about ‘slacktivism’ – the portmanteau coined to refer to those passive actions that seem to do more for the activists’ sense of soul than they do for anyone in need. It’s tempting to point at the Facebook user who changes their profile picture in the name of ‘awareness’ and insist it does nothing, that they are the ‘slacktivist.’
The counter is intense, brutal and bright. The success of gatherings during the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, the use of social media to give women in Iran a voice, Twitter giving those in the heart of Fukushima a way to reach out during a time of crisis. Without the internet, without social media, how very large our world would still be. How sad and lonely. Social media brings us together, puts a human face on people far away, who would be ‘just news’ to us.
The truth is, Slacktivists have existed long before the internet. There will always be those who want to appear altruistic but don’t have it in them; they’ve got the idea right, but not the soul. And that’s okay. We can be okay with that.
Tini Howard is a freelance writer who lives and works in Wilmington, NC. When she’s not covering events around town, she’s writing her graphic novels, The Impenetrable Suffragette and GLASS.