A Bad Case of Slacktivism: Beyond the Small Screen, but into the Real World?
In the month of May, America was faced yet again with the grueling reality of racial injustice. We say their names: Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and we are reminded of the magnificent tributes @shirien.creates illustrated. We see the reposts from friends and family on social media, and we are told that the few that did not participate in resharing are complicit with the racism that is plaguing our society.
But if we really think about it, how many of these reposters actually took action beyond that simple reshare? How many of these people made calls, signed petitions, or actively protested the system they greatly shame? How many of us truly say their names and remain educated about social justice in a time beyond the wave of posts that occurs? This is where the term “slacktivism” comes in. Better known as performative activism, it’s when we pat ourselves on the back and call it a day once we’ve engaged in social justice using a social media platform but don’t partake in real-world activity afterward. Of course, social media is a great way to raise awareness and unite. However, the problem arises when we don’t align our real actions with the ones we take on the internet.
This social phenomenon isn’t a newfound occurrence at all. Remember around this same time last year, we were turning our profile pictures blue to raise awareness for the Sudanese crisis? Remember that one post that claimed that “one reshare = one meal for a child in Sudan?” Yeah, that happened. From the hazy memories that remain of this campaign, the momentum that social media had gained in a matter of weeks quickly dissipated once people just…moved on. A humanitarian crisis that deserved society’s time and immediate action unfortunately just became a trend for people to quickly jump on and off of. Sudan's crisis has only gotten worse, with its people struggling to fight against political instability, a devastating locust invasion that could incite a famine, and a pandemic that is taking the world by storm, but it has been forgotten.
As of now, social media looks eerily similar to last year. We turned our profile pictures black to raise awareness for #blacklivesmatter. We reshared that one post that claimed: “one reshare = $1 to any #blm campaign.” We posted black squares on our feeds. And, to no avail, it’s almost July, and we are going silent yet again. This movement shouldn’t be a trend. We need to learn to stay educated and point out microaggressions that are used on an everyday basis. The slacktivism that is occurring on social media echoes the very privilege we have: we can post a pretty infographic on our stories then shut our phones down for the rest of the day. Black people around the world have to cope with the terrifying reality that a justice system meant to protect them can switch sides in an instant.
For my fellow Asian Americans who have read thus far and are asking if slacktivism applies to you, it does. We can stay informed about current events in America, but we have a greater duty to educate our parents and friends about the social issues that matter most to us. More often than not, our parents abstain from supporting movements such as Black Lives Matter because they feel as though it undermines their own struggles and insecurities as immigrants. With the digital connectivity of our society today, the discourse that occurs between us makes it easier to learn more about social justice and activism and provides a “safe haven” for us to express our beliefs. Thus, you may think your role as a child within a traditional family structure means that you cannot speak out or reject your parent’s political beliefs, but that is more than false. Educating your family means that they can make qualitative political decisions during elections, become allies for BIPOC within the workplace or school setting, and understand why you and many others are fighting for a certain cause.
During my time in the world of political activism, I’ve realized that this slacktivism does not authenticate the contributions any person makes to a movement. Remember that you will not and should not be seen as silent just because you do not partake in these actions on any social platform. Regardless, you should strive to call every single number, sign every single petition, donate however much you can to wherever you can, and most importantly, discuss political issues that matter to you with family and friends.
Social media is a powerful weapon to wield if it means we can spread awareness about a matter at hand, but we invalidate this awareness if we don’t value the actions we take in the real world. So before you decide to share that one post on your story, I urge you to think about what you can do once you turn away from that little screen. I urge you to see beyond the digital microcosm and put your money, thoughts, and words where they actually matter.
For a better, comprehensible guide of every way to support + educate yourself about BLM (with extra links to other ongoing global crises), click on the cardd below :