Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Slacktivism: just how bad is it?

Last week, UNICEF posted a video on their YouTube channel that addresses one of the themes that has come up during our blog discussion: slacktivism.

As others have discussed, the Internet fosters a culture that addresses problems through minimal effort. This phenomenon includes:

...signing Internet petitions, joining a community organization without contributing to the organization's efforts, copying and pasting of social network statuses or messages or altering one's personal data or avatar on social network services. (Wikipedia)

The UNICEF video is designed to address slacktivism through a short, emotionally-loaded narrative from 10-year-old Rahim in a nameless third-world country. Their message is, "Likes don't save lives. Money does." In other words, if you care enough about an issue to like it on Facebook, you should at least donate money to it.

Ironically, this video will be liked, upvoted, and shared through social media. It does nothing but raise awareness and spread a message. Is this video a hypocritical form of slacktivism? Instead of spending their money on producing videos, should they focus their efforts solely on helping children?

I don't think so.

It's extremely important to raise awareness about issues. Even doing the bare minimum by spreading the word helps raise awareness by a little bit. Even if a person doesn't physically contribute, they may spark the interest of someone who will donate their money and time.

Let's face it: we're all occupied with our own lives. Many of us simply don't have time to go out and solve our world's problems. If that makes you feel guilty, then find a cause to donate time and/or money to. There are plenty of people who have devoted their lives to causes we're interested in. It's their job—help them do it. Yes, you'll still be on your butt in front of a computer screen, but you're still doing something.

Ultimately, the problem lies in public's perception of contribution and a general lack of critical thinking. This results in many users believing in a Facebook fairy who donates money based on how many likes a post has.

I think the first step in solving such a problem lies in education (*cough* Postman *cough*). There are far too many digitally illiterate users who spend hours on Facebook everyday. Fixing the problem is a different story—one that I'm not equipped to answer at this point in time.

So what do you think about slacktivism? Do you think it's all bad? Are there good forms of slacktivism? How does it affect public discourse online?