During the Super Bowl, the Twitter account for an organization called NARAL Pro-Choice America posted criticisms of commercials they perceived as chauvinist or anti-abortion in some way. Disregarding that most ads’ main goals are to make you laugh (or cry) and to make money, NARAL’s lamest tweet criticized Audi for casting a man instead of a woman as the lead in their astronaut-based spot, because in a world with a gender pay gap and the oppression of women in the Middle East, that’s the most important feminist issue today.
Slacktivism: one of my least favorite things, but one of my most favorite words, a portmanteau of apparent opposites: slacker and activism. It was best defined by Snopes founder Barbara Mikkelson in 2002 as “the desire to do something good without getting out of your chair.” It’s fast, low-risk and gratifying. It comes in many forms, but these days it’s measured in online “social capital”: the number of likes, retweets, YouTube views (remember Kony 2012?) or Internet petition signatures that rarely accomplish progress. In other cases, slacktivists focus on so-called “microaggressions” like Audi’s casting choice because they seem to be easier to address.
Slacktivism is often mistaken for “raising awareness.” A ton of awareness was raised for ALS two summers ago thanks to the “Ice Bucket Challenge,” and yes, a ton of money as well. But I recoiled at the way challenge “nominations” were phrased. Given the option between donating a sum (often listed as $100) to research and performing the ice bucket dump, most millennials will choose the latter to begin with. Then add in the language that often posed the $100 donation as an “or else” and the social capital Facebook users earned by making the video. For many, it was nothing more than trendy. “If I don’t do this, I won’t fit in.”
I don’t equate all Web 2.0 tactics with slacktivism. The Arab Spring was organized entirely through social media communication. But then they actually left their houses and did something. To quote “Hello Cold World” by Paramore, “We can hope and we can pray that everything will work out fine/But you can’t just stay down on your knees, the revolution is outside/You wanna make a difference? Get out and go and get it.”
One true activist I know is DeSales alumna and current AmeriCorps volunteer Victoria Gaffney, whose many recent projects Alexander Lingle chronicles on pages 1 and 3. Alex pointed out to me that no fewer than three of our articles this issue conclude with contact information and open invitations for students interested in making a difference in one way or another.
So don’t delude yourself. Don’t half-ass something you care about. Get up and act. The revolution is outside.
Until next time, DeSales,