Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: Slacktivism

Remember when being an activist meant you would go out in public and advocate an issue that’s important to you? It was something you could take pride in because it takes time and effort to push social change. Now that Facebook is in the picture, people are able to reach many people without needing to get out of their seat. This is both a good and bad thing for the state of activism as we know it.

Equality. Graphic by Stephen Furtado.

On the bright side, people can now easily become aware of the issues affecting the world by simply logging into Facebook. When I logged in on March 26, I was confused to see that at least 30 people on my friends list had changed their profile pictures to a red equal sign. As I looked into it some more, I found out that it was to show support of marriage equality as the Supreme Court was in the process of hearing arguments about the issue.

This method of influence works; there is no questioning it. All of Facebook was made aware of the issue by the simple act of changing a profile picture to an equal sign. If I didn’t know any better, I would say that is a nice thing we have there.

We can’t have nice things because people think that pushing social change is as simple as stating an opinion over the Internet. Yes, I say this as I state my opinion over the Internet. This is a concept known as slacktivism, which is more of a “feel-good” action than it is an effort to push any change.

Slacktivism is hardly a new concept. It was coined in 1995 in response to people who would plant a tree rather than attend a protest against climate change. Now, it is even as simple as clicking “like” on a photo of a cancer-struck child that is captioned with “Like if you hate cancer.”

Just like the Kony 2012 fiasco where flyers went up all around campus in support of the project from Invisible Children; it was an issue that gripped the nation for a whole week. Out of nowhere, everyone wanted to spread the word about this evil man named Joseph Kony who would kidnap children and make them into child soldiers. Activism was as simple as hitting the share button, yet nobody cared about the issue enough to buy the action kit the video was intended to advertise for, which cost a measly $20.

Slacktivism is not limited to the Internet either. Let us also refer to the Chick-fil-A ordeal that had the nation slinging harsh words at each other. In defense of the words of CEO Dan Cathy, former Governor Mike Huckabee called for a Chick-Fil-A Appreciation day on April 1 of 2012. This counter to the gay-rights movement set records for the company and brought out Christian activists from all over to support their stance on Christian values.

What kind of society do we live in where you can call yourself an activist after going out to get a chicken sandwich during your lunch break? What difference is it really making to the world when you snap a picture of you and your family eating Chick-Fil-A and post it to Facebook? This is precisely why other countries look down on America the way they do, because this is the only place where eating food to express your political opinion is socially acceptable.

We can’t have nice things like political activism because the term has been hijacked by people who think that all it takes to push for social change is to change a profile picture for a few days or to pig out on a chicken sandwich. If you have a strong stance on an issue, that’s fantastic. More power to you. If you want to be an activist, make an effort. Donate, talk to a congressman, petition and protest. Do anything that requires you to get up and make a difference in the world. If we can take back what it means to be an activist and push social change the right way then maybe, just maybe, we can have nice things.