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  • Writer's pictureLa Voz Latina

Slacktivism: The rise of online activism

Written by: Maximo Legaspi 🇵🇭

Social media apps on May 14, 2024. (Alexa Figueroa)

With the internet connecting the entire world, people are more knowledgeable about global events than ever before. In a matter of seconds, one can be updated on news happening around the globe, all from the comfort of their couch. Many reputable news outlets have apps and social media accounts that let people stay up to date while watching cat videos. 

Naturally, as people become increasingly more aware about what’s going on, they will want to learn more. Once they learn more through whatever avenues they find, they begin to form opinions, take sides, and hold discussions on various topics. For those who spend a great deal of time on the internet, this manifests itself in the form of online activism.

Everytime anything important happens, you can expect many to take to apps like Instagram or X, analyzing the news and informing others of it.

Take the killing of George Floyd in the summer of 2020. In the wake of Floyd’s death, videos of the incident were reposted all over social media, along with calls to action and demands for justice. Protests occurred all over the world, with the internet helping to spread awareness about the issues at hand.

As the pandemic confined many to their homes, people needed ways to be involved, to feel like a part of the movement. The protests and discussions moved from the streets onto digital forums, heated debates filling the comment sections on Instagram daily.

For better or for worse, the summer of 2020 changed how world events are discussed online. Everyone who engages in such conversations seems to instantly become an expert in geopolitics, race relations, and economics. 

Slacktivism” is a new term that has emerged to describe the new wave of online activism.  Characterized by a lack of any meaningful effort, slacktivism often manifests itself through reposting and sharing petitions and infographics, though this is usually where the effort ends. 

To preface the following statements, nothing is inherently wrong with online activism. Given how many people are constantly on the internet, and how much of our daily lives are now intertwined with it, spreading a message digitally allows it to reach countless amounts of people. There are many good uses for online activism, especially in terms of organizing events and spreading awareness. Previously niche movements can now find greater support within online communities, helping to further them.

Still, one may find it difficult to equate the work of activists, constantly working towards a cause, with someone who simply reshares an Instagram post. 

Much of the criticisms directed towards online activism stem from such slacktivism; sharing news on social media takes very little effort. Within a couple of clicks, you’re done with the work. You don’t have to think about the ramifications of your actions, unlike many others involved with activism, whose work often places targets on their heads. Sharing infographics and having arguments on X are hardly replacements for real world work.

However, not everyone has the capacity to fully commit to a cause. People have jobs, responsibilities, and despite how much they may agree with a movement, obligations can often take them away from it. It’s hard to devote yourself to anything fully, especially with activism. People shouldn’t be criticized for doing what they can, yet one must realize that the bare minimum rarely equates itself to the work advocacy requires.  

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