Slacktivism (probably another fallout from the rise of the millennials).

Chances are you’ve been a slacktivist. If you’ve ever supported a social cause online, eg signed a petition, wrote a blog post, promoted a hashtag by tweeting, retweeting, liking or sharing on social media, and that’s all you did, then you’ve participated in slacktivism.


A 2013 Crisis Relief Ad

Slacktivism gets its bad rep from the fact that a lot of people, mostly millennials, tend to claim they’re socially conscious and participating in social causes via online activism.

These detractors cite several examples like the KONY 2012 debacle, the BringBackOurGirls saga, and so many instances where this kind of social media activism didn’t produce any concrete resolutions to the problem.

I mean, even the FLOTUS got involved in the #bringbackourgirls campaign and yet, a year later, we’re still looking for the girls.

On the other hand, the supporters point to the fact that other online social cause campaigns, for example, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, may have resulted in not only millions in donations to ALS research, but also a cure.

So, we have two POVs, both with good arguments.

The term slacktivist comes from the majority of participants in online social causes who stop at clicking, sharing or liking a social media item. That a click is enough to “make a difference”. Ironically, in some cases, it is. For example, in the case of the ALS research. Or even last year’s Ebola episode.

But the reason why a click was enough in these campaigns was because getting the word out and creating awareness was the bulk of the real challenge.

But there are other causes that don’t translate so easily into the “click and change the world” model. When causes require not only a click through but also a follow through in the real world. A lot of real world problems, especially the KONY issue, fall into this category.

Simplifying a problem to a few clicks is ridiculous, even in the 21st century. If social media activism is going to be effective, first of all, that oversimplified story telling should be curbed. Supporters should be made to understand the gravity of the situation – the amount of variables at play, the number of people that need to agree with the decision makers, the challenges the decision makers face in making decisions, in short all the ideal situations the cause requires to have its desired outcome.

Next thing is commitment. Making supporters to commit to the cause either through donations, volunteering or both, will graduate armchair activists into real change agents.

Ideally, for an optimal social media activism campaign, the social media component should augment/support the real activity which is usually on the ground, in the real world. Not replace it.

Afterall, that’s the real reason it’s called Activism. Not clicktivism.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Rolande via Compfight cc

Ibukun Taiwo Author

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