Activism without having to leave your bed

By: Ashley Aalto, Staff Writer

PC:  Elijah van der Giessen/ Flickr

PC: Elijah van der Giessen/ Flickr



Many of us have us have seen these hashtags. Maybe we’ve retweeted something about an issue, and felt passionately about it for a minute – but then forgotten about it the next.

Do you remember the 267 Nigerian secondary school girls that were captured by the Boko Haram in 2014? Everybody was outraged. Concerned social media dwellers made many posts and tweets using the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, but it didn’t actually bring back our girls. Though posts were shared, liked, and retweeted furiously, the truth is that none of it really helped, and the majority of those girls are still being held hostage. This is because unfortunately, creating change most times isn’t as simple as hitting the “like” button. It takes more than slacktivism to achieve a goal.

True forms of activism include attending protests, sit-ins, marches, and pickets, as well as boycotting businesses and volunteering. It is a way of being able to voice your passionate opinion about an issue publicly and to help make a change for the future. It takes effort to create a movement and promote change. This includes donating time, energy, and/or money to be active in making change and showing support for pressing causes.

However, activism has a much different face in 2016. Many have taken to a new form of activism: slacktivism. Simply put, slacktivism is a type of “activism” that is done through the Internet and requires little effort. It promotes awareness about social and political issues, but does little to create physical change. It includes the use of hashtags, likes, retweets, petitions, thoughts, and prayers.

Slacktivism could be hurting the potential of people actually getting involved by providing an assumption that problems may be fixed with a simple click of a button. It’s reminiscent of the lack of follow-up with worldly disasters and devastation once the media stops covering it. When someone supports a movement or cause with effort, they are more likely to support the cause with more effort in the future. Slacktivism is responsible for generating false ideals when it comes to showing support. It has the effect of making its participants feel as though they are creating change in a positive way but in reality, they’re not.

A recent example of slacktivism was the campaign for testicular cancer, Cock in a Sock. Cock in a Sock was a movement created by Cancer Research UK meant to raise donations and awareness for testicular cancer. Men would take a picture of their bodies devoid of any clothing except for their penis in a sock. Participants were to post the picture on social media, text a number to donate, and include said number on the social media post to encourage others to donate. Though there are many pictures on both Instagram and Facebook hashtagged as #CockInASock, the initiative did not raise very much money, as Cancer Research UK is still under their small goal of £5,000. That being said, did #CockInASock really help those suffering with testicular cancer, or was it just a chance for vain participants to collect an ego boost through comments and likes?

Slacktivism isn’t all terrible, and it can be useful if done right. As said before, it can help to raise awareness, and social media is a great resource for spreading information. In 2014, the ALS Association challenged people to dump a bucket of ice water over their heads in support of those with ALS. According to the ALS Association, “Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.” This disease causes a progressive loss of movement and eventually leads to death. The purpose of dumping a bucket of ice water over your body was to simulate the motor control reduction experienced by people suffering with ALS.

The Ice Bucket Challenge quickly went viral, and soon everybody from your neighbour to celebrities were participating. Because of the awareness, the ALS association received 100 million dollars in a 6-week period, and it was because of these donations that they discovered a breakthrough. Researchers found a gene that is a common contributor to the disease, and are now able to work on developing treatment options to help treat people suffering with ALS.

Spreading awareness is great. It provides people with information of something they may not have learned about otherwise, but it is not the only measure that needs to be taken when producing a transformation in society. We hate to break it to you, but growing a mustache for Movember without raising funds, wearing a pink ribbon for a fashion statement, or liking a picture of a starving child captioned as “1 like = 1 prayer” is not going to fix anything, or help to find a solution. Get out of bed, get off your phone, be active in your community and put forth a real effort into creating authentic change.  Remember, actions speak louder than shares, likes, and retweets.

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