Well, there’s a word you don’t hear every day.
Maybe it’s a word you’ve never heard before.
If you’re actively part of any movement for seeing justice win out, you may have a bad taste in your mouth after reading the word. Regardless, it’s time to have a chat about what it is, the good vs the bad, and how to drop the ‘sl’ from slactivist and become what the world needs more of—passionate activists.
I didn’t know what slactivism was until I did a stint with Not For Sale. It was one of those generic buzzwords (along with ‘innovation’ and phrases like ‘out of the weeds’) which came up in numerous conversations—more so in my realm as I was working with the grass roots initiatives of NFS. While it was thrown around from time to time without real explanation, it was easy to piece together what it meant—an easy representation of caring about something without really having to do anything at all.
Here is an official definition of slactivism from the Oxford dictionary:
Actions performed via the internet in support of a political or social cause but regarded as requiring little time or involvement. Eg: signing an online petition or joining a campaign group on a social media website.
Now, here’s a hilarious definition of slactivism, with a great example from Urban Dictionary:
The act of participating in obviously pointless activities as an expedient alternative to actually expending effort to fix a problem. Eg: signing an email petition to stop rampant crime is slacktivism. Want to really make your community safer? Get off your ass and start a neighborhood watch!
As we can see, especially from the Urban Dictionary example, slactivism isn’t really viewed highly. It comes across as what it sounds like; you’re being a slacker. You sort of care about an issue, but not enough to do something that requires more work than the minimal required to show you care.
Let’s cut to the chase…
The reason I am choosing to speak on this topic is that recently, many people (myself included), put a red X on our hand to show we are standing in solidarity with, and hoping to bring awareness to, the over 27 million individuals in slavery today. There are more people in slavery today than at any other point in history… and today we have documents to say slavery has been abolished! To be especially clear, I am not speaking badly about the End It Movement. I took part in this campaign. I put a red X on my hand, took a photograph, and posted it to Instagram to spread awareness. But, like with most campaigns, awareness amazing but it is not enough. A conversation must begin and actions must be taken. It’s time we take awareness to the next level.
|From my Instagram|
On February 27th my Instagram feed was flooded with individuals making a stand, putting that red X on their hand for a flashy photograph that shows they care. And while posting the picture to social media isn’t inherently bad, it’s what happens after which provokes questions as to why people do it in the first place. Have you ever, after posting a flashy statement or picture to social media, done anything to actively pursue being involved in trying to end slavery? Have you researched where your clothes come from? Have you looked to see if the chocolate you purchased is from a company who uses child and forced labour in their supply chains? Have you donated any money to an organization fighting sex trafficking or started reading the many books available on the topic? Have you prayed for the captives to be set free and for God to reveal to you what you should do next to help? For every like your Instagram photo received, you should have been doing something real to help end injustice.
So, what’s good about Slactivism? I think a campaign created with enough simplicity for the average individual to put in minimal effort while still being part of a movement is wonderful. Slactivism means the average Joe and Jane can engage with an awareness campaign, and feel like part of a larger group of individuals rallying together with one common goal, and that's pretty great. Imagine if every single person who has ever Tweeted about a cause, Instagramed an image of themselves supporting an organization with the use of a hashtag, or shared a pre-fabricated status on Facebook, influenced someone else to do the same. We would have a wildfire of awareness spreading, and the seeds of education being scattered across the world. We would suddenly see awareness soar about so many justice issues—enough issues that each individual could find what spoke to them so loudly they would want to become involved! Well, that’s the hope, after all—that awareness being raised inspires activists.
In this sense we can see how slactivism can have an impact. Awareness is a great first step to really seeing justice win out.
Since we’ve highlighted the positive, it’s important for us to take a look at why slactivism isn’t ideal. It’s almost self-explanatory—slactivism does not mean someone will actually start making a difference. Just because I posted a picture on Instagram, doesn’t mean I actually have to do anything else. Life can go on as normal. The ego boost from the ‘likes’ and the perception of being someone who ‘cares’ my Instagram followers see, could easily be enough to make me pursue nothing more than the selfish interest of posting the picture. No conversations actually sparked, no education shared, no further moments where I reflect on what it means to really try to end slavery. Let’s be honest, and this may come across pretty harsh, what do you think those currently caught up in sex trafficking think about you putting an X on your hand and posting a photo on Instagram? Will they see help from that one single thing you did? This is where slactivism finds it problem. It’s awareness, not effective action to end the injustice.
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So what do we do now? We have all taken part in slactivism, and many of us have probably already been an activist for something we are passionate about without even realizing it. How can we ensure we are living life as an activist, not a slactivist, in how we approach new issues being brought to our attention?
Awareness is Step 1.
Education is Step 2.
Activism is Step 3.
Slactivism goes hand in hand with Step 1, Awareness. But it’s a three-step process that is designed to continue once you make it to Step 1. You have to move through Steps 2 and 3 to see a real change and impact the world.
This is why I want to challenge you, the average Joe and Jane out there who commonly take part in the basics of slactivism we can all easily become involved in, to take away the ‘sl’ and pursue the next steps to becoming an activist.
- What is the most recent campaign you mentioned on social media? This is your "Step 1: Awareness"
For myself, it was how that ridiculous #TheDress hashtag and ‘controversy’ took over the world. To change this from something meaningless to meaningful, The Salvation Army in South Africa has made a campaign addressing violence against women. They took a woman covered in bruises and cuts and put her in the gold and white version of the dress with the tag line ‘why is it so hard to see black and blue?’.
- Research! Find out statistics about the cause and how it pertains to you (geographical location, statistics specific to your area, etc). This is your "Step 2: Education"
From here, if you find yourself passionate about the cause, it's time to move forward!
- Get involved! Take part in a campaign, donate money, sign up to volunteer, do whatever it takes to ensure you are becoming involved in ending the injustice! This is your "Step 3: Activism"
I’m not picking on awareness campaigns—if people didn't became aware of what was happening around the world, they wouldn't have the incredible opportunity to become educated and stand up to injustice! I want to bring light to how awareness is not enough. Following through is imperative to seeing justice win out. Don’t be a slactivist—do something! You can, and you will, be amazed at how big of an impact you can have on seeing injustice come to an end.