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  • Autumn Brooks

Will A Like, Comment, and Repost Really Save Our World? - Slacktivism and its Effectiveness

It is idealistic to believe that one simple online post can alter the course of national or global conflict. However, it would be ignorant to entirely ignore the power of large-scale movements that originate from social media. Apps such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Reddit, and others, are not solely used for leisure, but now house voices of political activism and calls to action during times of unrest. With the rise of social media activism, a new term has been coined, “slacktivism.” Slacktivism occurs when people take actions to support a cause in sentiment, yet their actions do not yield tangible change. Common examples of this include hanging a sign or flag or supporting a business that backs a certain cause. These actions can certainly express support and solidarity, yet they are criticized because no substantial political progress has been made through them. The criticism is even louder on social media posts.

While social media has always been used as a medium for political discussion, the COVID-19 Pandemic and global shut down along with the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement after George Floyd’s death made social media a vital source of news. Everybody was now online at all hours of the day, and there was a constant influx of new incidents of injustice, images, and new ideas to combat these inequalities. Posts about prominent movements such as Black Lives Matter and Stop Asian Hate consumed people’s timelines. While people were hesitant to take in-person action due to the pandemic, social media was the best place for learning new information about these movements and showing support for them.

The trend did not die out, though, towards the end of this pandemic. Rather, this method of activism is still practiced today. Multi-slide Instagram infographics are still being created, but there has been a compelling shift to TikTok for activism. Tiktok’s algorithm is designed to select which videos and topics go viral, and if one video on a cause goes viral, it becomes easier for multiple related videos to obtain virality as well. Paramount Insights reports how 77% of TikTok users felt as if the app helped make them aware of injustices and political issues occurring within the world. An interesting trend on TikTok is the usage of certain songs or filters to generate revenue to monetarily support a movement, though there is doubt about where these monetary donations actually go. 

Social media activist posting presents a means for stimulation and calls to action in times when physical action may not be as plausible. Instagram infographics and minute-long information spiels became the norm online. With these posts came reports, legal updates, petition links, and other related resources. It was a way for people to be involved and still feel as if they were making a difference. However, it begs the question, do these likes, reposts, and petitions actually change anything? 

This is where the concept of slacktivism is born. While it is easy to express outrage online, when it is not followed by tangible action, these sentiments fall flat. Slacktivism and performative activism go hand-in-hand, as it is easy to see efforts on social media as sufficient enough to bring about true political progress without actually being the case. 

While social media can be an excellent tool for spreading awareness, it is essential that striving for change is not limited to the online sphere. Specifically on a college campus, there are countless organizations, rallies, and votes in which these beliefs on social media can be exercised. To achieve true social change, reposting an infographic is not enough. This action must reach into the physical world as well.


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