The term “slacktivism” arose as online charitable involvement grew. To understand the vital differences between legitimate activism and slacktivism, read on.
All signs point to the term “slacktivism”—a portmanteau of “slacker” and “activism”—coming from Dwight Ozard and Fred Clark in 1995. This clever wordplay gave language to the increasingly common phenomenon of effortless charitable service that didn’t seem to lead to appreciable good or continued involvement.
The term’s mid-1990s origin is no accident. Slacktivism took off with the popularization of the internet, which allowed people to do simple tasks like signing a petition or sharing a charity’s email with friends and family. Today, one common slacktivist act is sharing or liking social media posts about causes without doing much else to address those concerns.
The most troubling part of slacktivism is it consumes your motivation for substantive service without actually benefitting anyone. Sharing a post or another online act may only serve to make you feel good and give the outward appearance of do-gooding, meaning that you’re the beneficiary. True slacktivism is the opposite of a self-giving sacrifice.
Dispelling Slacktivism Myths
That said, slacktivism critics may want to refrain until they understand what it actually accomplishes. One study shows that people who post and share about causes online are more likely to engage in future service than those who don’t. So, even if slacktivism doesn’t produce a noticeable effect alone, it correlates with a prolonged commitment to pursuing good. Seeing this continuation is the key to knowing the difference between slacktivism and activism.
Apart from simply getting people interested in and informed on important causes, there may be another reason for this uptick in charitable participation. Many nonprofits utilize micro-volunteering, a term with positive connotations and a similar meaning, as one of their several means of recruiting all kinds of volunteers. By making the initial connection online, there’s less of a barrier to engaging an individual again for a more intensive partnership.
The Characteristics of Active Activism
If you want to assess whether you’re an active advocate for others rather than a chronic slacktivist, consider these characteristics and whether you embody them or not:
- You’re relentlessly self-sacrificial for your cause
- You feel rewarded upon helping someone, not only when you gain recognition
- You think and talk about service often and recruit others to join
- You have an ultimate goal focused on others
- You’re okay persisting even when you don’t see results
If you’re honest and see your efforts resemble slacktivism more than activism, there’s always time to improve. Take it slow and do one thing often: reach out to charities and people who could use your support. Try passing out food or walking shelter dogs or building houses. In time, taking these steps will help you truly help others.