Thursday, January 14, 2010

Nerd Word of the Week: Slacktivism

Facebook groups are not political protestImage by ʎpuɐ via Flickr
Slacktivism (n.) -- Pejorative slang term for feel-good measures that have little hope of actually aiding the cause or individuals they claim to support. Particularly used in cases where the "activism" is limited to online activity with little or no investment or sacrifice required of the supporter, such as signing an online petition, joining a Facebook group, or modifying your online avatar in some fashion.

I bring it up because: This week saw two events that brought the slacktivists out in droves: The earthquake near Haiti, and Google's threatened withdrawal from China. While many online actions have actually done some good -- such as entreaties to text certain codes that will send a donation to Haiti relief efforts through your cell phone bill -- far too much of the "response" has been limited to Twitter hashtags. How much did turning your avatar green really help the election protesters in Tehran last year? How much did revealing the color of your bra on Facebook really help breast cancer awareness or research? True protest, and true activism, means upsetting the status quo, but by integrating our support into our regular routine of online activities it becomes just more trend-follower noise rather than actual change. Something to think about as we rage against the machine online -- if our words aren't backed up by substantive actions, we're just another part of the machine we rage against.