Slacktivism isn’t Activism, But the Two Can Go Hand in Hand

Published by Isabelle Bousquette on


Slacktivism isn’t Activism, But the Two Can Go Hand in Hand

Isabelle Bousquette | Avant-Youth

No matter which presidential candidate you support this year, you have about 10 options for a Facebook profile picture frame expressing that choice. The frames range from supportive (“Team Elizabeth Warren”) to incisive (“Biden, please drop out, thanks”), to focused on specific issues (“Bernie: Legalize Marijuana”). 

There was a time when, if you wanted Bernie to come in and legalize marijuana, you wouldn’t be able to just click a Facebook frame. You’d make signs, attend rallies, knock on doors and do something that’s almost never done in 2020: pick up a bona fide phone and make a call. (“Hello, do you have a minute to talk about Bernie legalizing marijuana?”)

Now, political solidarity is as easy as a click.

“Slacktivism,” is what the critics call it.  Slacktivism is an effort to engage with politics that really doesn’t take much effort at all. You share an article, write a Tweet or add a profile frame. You feel confident that you’ve accomplished your civic duty.  

Social scientist Henrik Serup Christensen explains slacktivism as a phenomenon where “the real life impact of the activities is limited; the main effect is to enhance the feel–good factor for participants.”

The term “slacktivism” conjures images of teenagers too lazy to pull their pants up, who forgo homework to get high scores on Grand Theft Auto — essentially, images of slackers. Still, there’s nothing inherently wrong with slacktivism. 

The omnipresence of social media means information can be shared more widely, quickly and democratically than ever before. So of course Facebook and Twitter are places where we discuss politics. As we should. 

However, there are two problems that go along with the type of political slacktivism that occurs on social media. The first is what psychologists call “confirmation bias.” 

When we encounter ideas that we agree with, they strengthen our beliefs. When we encounter ideas we don’t agree with, we simply disregard them. As we seek out more and more sources to reaffirm our current ways of thinking, we start to enter digital political cellars. These cellars function as echo chambers where the only things we hear are things that we already believe. Because of that, opinions tend to become more and more extreme, on both sides of the spectrum. 

The other problem with online slacktivism is that in many cases it has taken the place of genuine activism. There’s nothing wrong with posting about your political beliefs if you’re also going out there campaigning, lobbying and trying to affect real change. There is, however, an issue when you’re posting on Facebook in lieu of those efforts. 

So, while there’s nothing wrong with slacktivism itself, it’s not a replacement for activism. Luckily, there are tons of ways to get involved in the 2020 election. 

  • Attend a rally or volunteer for your favorite candidate’s campaign. 
  • If there’s an issue you care about, join a protest. 
  • And if there’s no protest, then organize one. 
  • If you’re not certain yet who’s got your vote, but you still really care about the process, volunteer with the government as a poll worker or help people register to vote. 

Still add a Facebook profile frame, but then step out from behind your screen. Still send that tweet, but then go mobilize what you’re tweeting about.

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1 Comment

You may not want to, but you need to: Why we vote • Avant-Youth · August 6, 2020 at 4:36 pm

[…] far does our “activism” go? If our love for activism is true, why are young people not […]

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