Slacktivism: the new online version of saving the world
The Urban Dictionary’s definition of slacktivism is, “The act of participating in obviously pointless activities as an expedient alternative to actually expending effort to fix a problem,” and, “The search for the ultimate feel-good that derives from having come to society’s rescue without having had to actually get one’s hands dirty or open one’s wallet.”
The term slacktivism was new to University of Manchester student Stacey Williams, who spoke to The Reflector via Facebook.
“I must admit that I guess I have done a bit of slacktivism myself. For example I used to go onto thehungersite.com and click my way into feeling better,” she said.
Community activist Grant Neufeld of Calgary is involved in several different activist groups including the environment, feminism and housing, but is still familiar with slacktivism.
“Activism comes in all different shapes and sizes,” he said.
He sees online activism as a “tool for getting more people connected with activist efforts.”
While Williams doesn’t consider herself an activist in conventional terms, “I believe in being an activist through my daily activities; recycling, turning off lights, buying organic (and) fair-trade when I can,” she said.
“I believe it is these activities that will show companies (and) governments where the public stands on things. I don’t like to spend my money in shops that are not ethical, etc. I believe that our current potential as activists lies in our spending power.”
One of the biggest examples of slacktivism could be the “causes” application on Facebook. This application allows “Facebookers” to simply click and join a cause. The possibilities are endless, with applications that allow you to save the polar bears, fight breast cancer and support STARS.
Williams says it’s “the thought that counts” where online activism is concerned.
“If everyone really starts to ‘click’ away then maybe it will get things started,” she said.
“It’s not that much effort, hence the slack part … also though as a word of caution, I don’t think slacktivism is as powerful or prominent as physical activism. As well, part of activism is it’s visual power in the media, it shows that people care and have something to stand up for, that they have something to actually get out and gather in order to stand up for.”
As far as getting out and gathering for those things organizations you believe in, Calgary has a pretty good record where volunteering is concerned.
Karen Franco, manager of communications for Volunteer Calgary said that a survey done in 2005 showed that 71 per cent of Calgarians were actively volunteering.
She said the face of volunteering is changing and has taken more of a route where volunteers can help out online instead of just in person.
“There’s lots of ways to help and I think that will continue, “she said.
She added that there are a lot more people using their specific work skills and utilizing them in a volunteer setting.
While it is hard to judge where volunteering numbers for the city are right now, Franco said that she hadn’t heard of any decline. There are nearly 500 volunteer opportunities in the Calgary region right now.