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Slacktivism is the precursor to activism, whether it happens through the sharing of a picture, tweet, status, petition, or video, it begins a discussion and assessment of a potential problem, its causes, and may propose solutions. Contrary to the opinion of some, there is power in a digital push, much like we saw once upon a time with Aaron Swartz, Demand Progress, with online petitions for change. Or people supporting LGBT rights with a rainbow, or expressing political views like #MakeDonaldDrumpfAgain, point being, “Social media wasn’t just a part of these protests—it was the reason they caught fire.” Gillian Branstetter also finished the article the above quote is from with: “2015 has proven that the Internet is more than an accessory to the real-world actions that change demands—it’s now a proven way to make it happen.” Slacktivism is a force for good, while you may be frustrated by individuals who that is the extent of their action, as acknowledged by Abby Rosmarin, it is still support nonetheless.

Here is a list of some major online campaigns:
#NotYourMascot– “Not Your Mascots is a non-profit organization dedicated to addressing the misappropriation of Indigenous identity, imagery and culture.”
#CancelColbert – the call to cancel The Colbert Report after a racial comment was taken out of context in a tweet that garnered support to end his show.
#YesAllWomen – “a campaign in which users share examples and stories of misogyny and violence.”
#IdleNoMore – Indigenous rights peaceful movement to honour indigenous sovereignty, and to protect the land and water.
#BlackLivesMatter – “is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise.”


Photo Credit: Fibonacci Blue via Compfight cc


Live Support
The examples above garner support. Support can be visually supported and multiplied by the use of apps such as Periscope or Meerkat. There is a whole host of concerns about protection in anonymity and sharing of videos containing individuals who may not want to be shared but it increasing the connection of the world far beyond text or videos of before… even revolutionizing journalism and world event sharing, instantly.

It’s about the sharing of an idea. And while I may not belong to a particular race, culture, gender, or belief system… the sharing or “liking” of an idea is still something to make the idea grow or decline (depending on my opinion about it). I can be trolled or challenged for my comments, but the fact is my idea was read… so regardless of what abuse happens to me (not saying this is okay, see last week about online harassment, or that I’d receive much due to belonging to pretty much every privileged community there is, white, straight, male), my idea lives on… and to quote V from V for Vendetta. “Ideas are bulletproof”. Zeynep Tufecki would argue that despite the amount of momentum these ideas gather, successful outcomes aren’t seen, and pushes for the importance of organizing this beyond social media. I agree with her values on organizing and preparing for organized change… it still works. Georgetown univsiety posted a study and was summarized by Kate Groetzinger stating:  “those who support movements online are actually more likely to engage in activism in real life.” Scott Gilmore contributed the rhetoric of how useless Slacktivism is, because in cases it did nothing to help the individuals it referenced despite the amount of social media support it received… and essentially posits it was useless and served as a self back-pat for individuals.It read as if there is a need for change in “real-life”and if this is not achieved there is no successful outcome. But what is real-life change and activism?  And what is the measurement of a successful outcome? I, for one, argue that it depends how you measure victory. As an educator, an English language learner student writing their name can be a successful outcome or indicator. Vanessa Braun argued (paraphrased), even positively affecting/changing one person in one hundred… is still one person you positively affected. And I completely agree. For social justice – a share is a victory, a like is support, a comment is feedback for growth, and a view is a win.

And a win is a win is a win. 50 likes on a post supporting LGBT rights (win), riddled with some negative comments (win), leads to the next step – practice of defending an idea and gaining confidence (win) to the next step – build a GSA in your school (win)… which leads to the next step changing the discussion on it community-wide (win), which may lead to the next step mandated changed province-wide (win). Maybe the next step won’t happen yet, or backlash may happen in between, but even a negative step is still a step towards potential growth. As teachers, we can help educate out students to be the citizens who will dictate the direction of social media and take the next step. Recognize it can be a vehicle for hate but also a medium for growth, promote digital citizenship. It may sound like confessions of hopeless optimism, but I end the day happy knowing that I believed in the idea that things would and could get better, that a person is better, people are better than their darkest points and that the sharing of that idea has power. Wael Ghonim pushes for the understanding that people (we) can change their (our) minds and be better than the hateful comments others/actions (ourselves) have made, and as teachers, we have the power and responsibility share the ideas that shape the worldviews of current/future social media clientèle.


Your thoughts?  Agree? Disagree?

Logan Petlak

Post-writing thought:
Some of us are equipped to pursue the “real-life” activist change, and some aren’t, so I don’t mean to say every teacher needs to be a “rah-rah” hero in this light. I think rather than dwell on the negativity of some not doing something, recognize your skill-set and how you can make/support change.