Are you really going to save the world like that?

What does liking and sharing posts about causes online really do…?

Urban dictionary defines slacktivism as “the self-deluded idea that by liking, sharing, or retweeting something you are helping out”.

This is a pejorative definition as this so called ‘slacktivism’ has and continues to have real impact on movements across the world. Research has shown that in the US and internationally movements like Black Lives Matter and #MeToo have furthered their aims through online activism.

Think back to the Black Lives Matter protests of Summer 2020 fuelled by people from all over the world sharing their stories and education resources, additionally, the abolishment of the tampon tax which Laura Coryton, who started the movement, publicly declared wouldn’t have been possible without the internet.

Sociologist Zeynep Tufekci examined in her book Twitter and Tear Gas (2017) how the “digitally networked public sphere” has come to be able shape social movements. She found that with the mobilization of social media decentralized protests happening in Istanbul and New York could be linked. Social media provides the ability to scale up quickly without building any substantial organisational capacity before the first protest or march.

Utilising online activism though doesn’t mean the old structure of activism should be forgotten, in fact Tufekci argues that it is through the marriage of internet activism and the physical networks behind these movements that ensure success. The Black Lives Matter protests this summer were fuelled by the internet along with the guidance of the already established Black Lives Matter groups, a unified network of over one hundred and fifty organisations. An issue Tufekci notes with internet movements is that they can often lack “the culture and infrastructure for making collective decisions” therefore with BLM organisations working alongside the social media movement this sustained the campaign and provided direction.

Black Lives Matter is a prime example of where the future of activism lies “This movement has mastered what social media is good for,” Deva Woodly, a professor of politics at the New School claims.

Social media is creating change, and anyone can do it. Liking sharing and subscribing to causes you care about does make a different – we are not self-deluded.

This isn’t the future of activism; this is activism now.

Image: Callum Shaw via unsplash