Over the past few days, we've seen some critical engagement and ideas around slacktivism. The conversation, through our Instagram story, has centred around the usefulness of slacktivism as well as some of its more adverse effects. As we continue the discussion, this article serves as a collection of the valuable insights that have been shared. The intention is for this article to prompt further thoughts. As you engage with these, we invite you to write a piece tackling any aspect of the prompt, or even discussing slacktivism as a whole.
In response to "does slacktivism actually achieve anything?" :
Responses that leaned toward the opinion that slacktivism does indeed achieve something:
'Trickle-down effect' - While slacktivism may be characterised as involving little effort, it can have the effect of prompting somebody else into speaking out on an issue
Additionally, slacktivism forces recognition of an issue and raises awareness - perhaps its biggest advantage
A situation in which this awareness is increasingly valuable is when slacktivism occurs in spaces that are not as conscious or aware, in this case, bringing awareness to issues that would not otherwise receive it. Slacktivism holds the potential for conversations in spaces where they wouldn’t have usually happened..
Interestingly, an alternate role of slacktivism was identified - that it should be used as a platform to promote groundwork and point people toward the ways in which they can help movements grow and succeed.
A distinction was made between activism on the micro and macro scale: on a personal micro-level, slacktivism achieves awareness and perhaps a shift in mindset. On a systemic macro level, slacktivism falls short in achieving transformative change, for instance reforming police or stopping hunger.
Do we look at slacktivism’s purpose as being one of the many tools to achieve change or the central vehicle for change?
Slacktivism allows everyone and anyone to do something within their individual capacities to positively impact the movement.
Responses that leaned toward the opinion that slacktivism does not achieve anything :
This can, however, be identified as one of its drawbacks - while it has the effect of educating and sharing information, that is where it ends. Its helpfulness is confined to awareness and not much else.
A harm of slacktivism identified was that it can be viewed as a product of a herd mentality, in turn leading to issues reaching saturation points.
An issue identified is that this brand of slacktivism outweighs the people determined to bring about structural change, in that slacktivism is being promoted over actual activist work on the ground. This, in turn, leads to decreased resources and support for those mobilising to advance movements
Slacktivism can hinder organic changing of mindsets and actions - Instagram stories can become scapegoats in place of actual important reading or questioning, which lead to far more meaningful and effective change.
Slacktivism allows individuals to assume their work is done in their posts, and their understanding is restrained to the surface level.
Slacktivism, and performative activism, can be seen as an appropriation of activism intended for one to navigate their way into ‘woke circles’
The overarching view is that slacktivism, while creating awareness and evoking a useful sentiment, cannot achieve any significant change or reform alone - it must be coupled with other efforts.
In response to “do you think the notion that silence is compliance applies to slacktivism?”
The idea that activism doesn’t look a certain way, especially in that Instagram posts are not essentially characteristic of an activist. Some people may not have a social media presence but are incredibly involved in activism in their daily lives. The absence of social media activism does not mean the absence of activist efforts as a whole.
Because it can be hard to tell “a slacktivist apart from an activist,” one cannot be quick to label another as a slacktivist or an accomplice.
Actively choosing to stay silent in a society where institutions and systems of repression and detriment to certain individuals exist is actively contributing to these harmful systems due to a lack of opposition. Perhaps then silence is complacency, at least on an institutional, economic, and political level.
In response to “do slacktivism and virtue signaling go hand in hand?”
There has been a blurring of the lines - the accessibility of contemporary activism makes it natural for people to think one form (online activism) is interchangeable with another (groundwork), perhaps even subconsciously. This, in turn, leads to a general disillusionment of what actually constitutes change
We should regard virtue signaling as its own issue and a product of egocentrism as the intention behind slacktivism and virtue signaling differs - slacktivism being out of genuine intent to bring about awareness.
A sentiment expressed was that through slacktivism, people take advantage of movements to aid their personal brand - casting slacktivism as inherently self-interested and performative. In this respect, slacktivism does not truly help anyone.
Look out for more content surrounding slacktivism throughout the week, both here on ukuzibuza.com and on our Instagram, @ukuzibuza. The conversation has been incredibly productive thus far, let's keep it going.