From Slacktivism to Activism
Sparking civic engagement with technology: Digital activism is becoming a prominent topic in this day and age. Social media is constantly expanding, there is much debate in regards to what is called slacktivism and what potential it holds.
Social Media Awareness
With the advent of social media, we can constantly seek out and share information about current world issues. Boundless information is available from the comfort of our couches, but how can we use this knowledge to combat society’s greatest problems? Now, the biggest difficulty organizations face is inspiring citizens to get more involved with causes that they care about. How do you convert passive support from digital actions like joining to Facebook group to active commitments like donating, volunteering, and joining protests?
The BIG Debate
This phenomenon of digital activism is commonly referred to as “slacktivism,” when citizens’ support of an issue or social cause has little physical or practical effect towards solving a problem (think liking to Facebook post or retweeting to statistical shocking). Most people, even if they agree with an idea, do not take action because there are options available.
More people are willing to engage in digital activism that does not require extensive financial, emotional, or physical discomfort.
While social media campaigns serve to raise awareness about local and global issues, the social impact diminishes the responsibility for change spreads out among users with the spread of digital campaigns.
Many people are quick to identify the drawbacks of slacktivism because of their ineffectiveness in instigating definite social change and influencing public policy, but social media is a valuable tool for those interested in activism. For example, college students are just beginning to form their opinions and are seeking more active approaches to social good. Eventually, with well-designed campaigns that spread information and opportunities for action while sustaining motivation, people could be encouraged to increase their community engagement and be more willing to commit time and financial resources to causes that they care about. The modest initial commitment should be an opportunity for future engagement, not passed off as lazy.
Thought for the Future
Instead of using slacktivism as a condescending term to separate “real activists” from couch activists, organizations should take advantage of new engagement technology and strategies for social campaigns to encourage citizen participation. Easy-to-use technologies can be valuable tools to empower citizens and their communities. Smart cities need smart citizens who are aware of local issues and who are eager to get involved, but sometimes finding ways to get involved can be tricky.
Connecting people to causes that they care about with user-friendly, online platforms could be the viable solution to increase civic engagement, both simple to implement and easy to sustain. For example, The Social Coin’s deeds app connects concerned citizens with challenges that generate positive social impact in their communities.
Activism will still follow a digital trend, but new technology should seek to create cities that are responsive to citizen concerns through civic action.