Personally i don’t like getting political on social media largely because i perceive it as ineffective, but as everything can and is politicised here i go. Having strong opinions and expressing them online frequently often appears to serve more as an outlet for the individual, a way to vent, to feel like they’re taking action, but it also further homogenizes us towards groupthink around whatever current topics of outrage are populating our feed.
The more informed amongst us will know these pseudo-activist activities by the name of virtue signaling. That is, the individual signals outwards to the world that they are amongst the politically enlightened on a subject and so are virtuous as they act upon that wisdom, making sure to make everyone else feel guilty for inaction in the process.
It’s nothing new of course but the real tragedy is in people being unaware that they are virtue signaling and instead themselves having a sense of accomplishment through obtaining shares, comments and likes. Further validating their non-activity when their posts are engaged with by their peers, no matter how little their efforts at affecting change on the matter.
While it’s fair to say a mass movement on social media platforms can be a catalyst for change, the majority of people partake in such activities not through their ambitions to actually change society (although they are often referred to as S.J.Ws – Social Justice Warriors) but instead to have the appearance of action.
This is compounded by the fact we spend so much of our waking life on platforms that are both algorithmically designed to outrage; and so engage us. While at the same time providing a clear motive for those organisations that would profit from such outrage and engagement.
This is the perfect recipe for providing the masses with a way to feel like they’re doing something meaningful while actually doing nothing but tapping their screen a few times a day; for the more advanced user maybe changing the colour or design of their profile picture for a week. This is pseudo-activism, a.k.a Slacktivism and it serves to empower the individual while at the same time ensuring they don’t rock the real boat, the boat that if rocked might cause actual societal change.
An article from Psychology Today even goes as far as claiming it to be harmful to the very causes its trying to help:
“It can be overwhelming to the average person, who really wants to help out, but is so inundated with options they become paralyzed. Slacktivism eases that burden. You can ‘help’ out all the causes with a simple click of a button or a pinning of a ribbon.”
That article was written ten years ago and clearly the majority did not get the message, so what does Slacktivism look like in 2020 and has it evolved into something more like the activism we know?
Slacktivism in 2020
Slacktivism does appear to have evolved, with new ways to raise funds through various crowdfunding services and new features embedded directly on social media platforms, it’s much easier to capitalise on your efforts whatever they may be. And off course capital is the fuel for which ideas can be realised in an effective manner, this small but significant feature – crowdfunding – allows individuals organising activist groups to encourage participation from the would be Slacktivist. “Believe in our cause? put your money where your Tweet is”
Changing your profile picture or slamming organisations on Facebook is now a secondary activist action, those persons that can’t afford to donate themselves now go to work on their networks trying to encourage others to donate to the cause.
So now people have the very powerful tool for increasing capital flow to accelerate change they can begin to feel like they have a true impact on the situation right? Well kind of, they may feel they are having an impact but there are still individuals responsible for managing that capital, and individuals are often just that, individuals.
Issues up ahead
People change too, what might have been a clear statement of intent at the beginning can often metamorphosize over time as new information comes in. It may sound pessimistic but the fact that anyone can start a Facebook page or group tomorrow, immediately start raising funds for some outlandish ideology only to ‘update’ the framework of how these funds will be utilised by the initiative; puts campaign administrators in a position of great power, they now have both the means to execute on their own version of the initiatives ideology.
Sounds a little terrifying right?
You’re probably picturing little dictators right now popping up all over social media administering their doctrine to the masses, and you’d be quite right, to some extent the internet has always had such features, only now these features are much more accessible by anyone that can navigate a social media account, which in some such case may end up being an Ape.
And so Slacktivism has kind of fractured in to two classes, those that contribute to the cause by way of cash donations, and those that try to convince others to donate to the cause. Each class although empowered somewhat by way of raising capital still exercise their activism within a safe space, tucked away behind their keyboards.
Are you in an online group being managed by Apes? Please tell us about it and share a link to the group in the comments below.
Stay safe bloggers, and keep writing about your interests!
NOTE:This post was inspired by the subreddit SelfAwareWolves and very likely belongs there.