Word of the Month: Slacktivism

Hello everyone! This is our first Word of the Month issue! This section will be updated every month. We talk about a word you may or may not have heard of, and discuss it’s significance in the media.

Most of you are probably familiar with various internet trends that have been circulating social media lately, such as the ALS ice bucket challenge, and the change your profile picture to the yellow ribbon on a black background to support protesters in Hong Kong. These trends among many others have been generating quite a bit of criticism for being examples of slacktivism.

Slacktivism is a portmanteau of “slacker” and “activism”, or activism for the slacker. It’s usually portrayed in social media as hashtags (#prayforacure), display picture/ avatars ( change your picture to your favourite cartoon character to support children in developing areas!), sharing videos *coughUPWORTHYcoughcoughcough*, signing online petitions, posting videos of you doing a challenge such as the one for ALS, or simply liking certain posts(1 like=1$ to save this dying child).

Some of you may ask “How does this remotely qualify as activism (albeit one for slackers)?” And as a shamed Slacktivist myself, I must say that slacktivist movements are mostly just for spreading awareness, but the effect it causes varies by the degree of action required to partake in the activist cause. For example, that picture of the baby with a brain tumour probably will not actually give whatever hospital the baby is in one dollar for your ‘like’. Whaatt? Yeah, its mind-blowing, I know. In fact, Researchers have actually done an experiment on slacktivism, and how slacktivism corresponds with the actual amount of activism coming from an individual. For this experiment, they got three groups of people and asked them to either join a Facebook group, accept a pin, or sign a petition, all for charitable groups advocating for combating various issues around the world. Afterwards, they asked each group of people to donate money to support the cause or to volunteer. What they have found is that the people who joined the Facebook group were the least likely to partake in the donations of money or their time, with the petition signers most likely to do things to help the cause. It is also widely believed that slacktivism does more harm than good to a campaign.

The ALS ice bucket challenge is widely seen as a good cause because it has done the two things most forms of slacktivism are striving to achieve: raise media awareness, and promote donation. However, this infographic (http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/infographic-shows-differences-between-diseases-we-donate-and-diseases-kill-us ) shows us ALS is a far lesser concern compared to, say, heart disease (which you can donate to at the Heart&Stroke’s Jump Rope for Heart here : http://www.heartandstroke.ab.ca/site/c.lqIRL1PJJtH/b.5777647/k.2BA0/HeartStroke_Jump_Rope_for_Heart.htm ) killing 597, 577 people just in the US alone. Another well funded disease is Breast cancer, for which the Komen Race for the Cure raised approximately 257 million dollars for. Of course it is good to raise money for ALS since it has caused many deaths and continues causing pain for patients and their families as you read, but the distortion of perspective the media influence gives the general public takes away significance from what needs more attention. It’s actually the same thing happening with Ebola right now, which you can see very clearly with it’s portrayal on Fox News, amongst other corrupt news sources. Yes it is a scary disease, but the scariest thing about it is the fear it provokes, in turn getting youtube videos watched, news pages and posts shared which then turns into profit.

As mentioned, I am a slacktivist myself. But why? you might ask. Didn’t we just go over why slacktivism is such a bad idea? I personally believe slacktivism has great potential in the movement of goodness worldwide, but the negative effects listed above are a result of exploitation of social media by selfish companies looking for profit. The main problem is, Slacktivism is mostly used by selfish companies looking for profit or attention-seeking teenagers; whereas the organizations that actually deserve more money to fund their causes are usually less adept at using the internet to their advantage. It’s like communism in the way that the idea of it isn’t bad, but rather the people who abuse it’s powers. In a perfect world, slacktivism would advertise for all the right causes but since we’re only on earth, I guess we just gotta deal.