On The Value Of Slacktivism (And The Parallels Of Journalism)

I was seeking inspiration on what to write my first blog post on, but everywhere I looked all I could read about was freaking Joseph Kony. I’ve yet to watch the actual video but have read probably about a dozen blog posts on it, not to mention the countless tweets, Facebook posts, ramblings of the eccentric guy on the corner, et cetera. So I figured I might as well hop on the bandwagon and share my thoughts on the phenomenon that I like to refer to as slacktivism.

No, I cannot take credit for coming up with that term, but I do feel it’s very applicable to this context. I find it amazing how quickly people are willing to rally for a cause when it requires them to do absolutely nothing. People like to feel good about themselves, and what better way to achieve that than to send out a tweet or Facebook link and assure yourself that you’ve done a great favour for humanity?

I suppose I can relate — after all I am a journalist. We’re the ones that tell ourselves we’re on some noble mission to proliferate truth and lift clouds of obfuscation and corruption. Realistically, we’re (mostly) churning out stuff that few people care about, and your average reader may read the headline , take a glance at the photo and get half way through your lede before skipping to the sports section. That’s the reality of this business and I’m fine with that.

But we trudge on in the hopes that we will eventually strike a chord with a reader and that person may actually care enough to talk to someone else about it, maybe read more about the issue or even — God forbid — do something about it.

I guess it’s a similar approach when one dons an “awareness” bracelet or decides to join a Facebook group promoting a certain cause. It’s the easiest way to feel like you’ve contributed something to humanity while still sitting on your ass.

But I do think there is something to be said for the power of social media to shape our collective consciousness to an extent that was never really self-evident until now. Various forms of slacktivism have existed since at least the mid-1900s;  after all who can forget the activist bumper stickers plastered on every tie-dyed Volkswagon type 2 in the 60s (unless you were never around to witness them in the first place, as is the case in my instance).

But to get 60 million people to watch a video about anything in one week is no mean feat. Not to mention the fact that they’ve raised millions of dollars for their (what some perceive to be dubious) cause.

While I have doubts about the organization itself, and question to what extent of meaningful change the cause has itself leveraged, I do have to commend the people behind the project for their sheer ability to get so many people talking, thinking and caring about a subject that seemingly does not affect them and takes place so far away. It’s a true testament to the power of social media. I’m eagerly awaiting to see how this still nebulous medium is going to shape not only journalism, but society’s apathy towards various social issues on a broader scale.

So here’s to saving the world. And if you’re too lazy to actually pour yourself a drink, you can just tweet it.



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