Slacktivism is my new fave word. I previously blogged about how raising awareness often doesn’t create action, but people think they’re acting upon some injustice. I wasn’t sure what this was called, so I started calling it self-deceptive action.
But it has many terms. Once upon a time, it was called being an armchair warrior. That’s the guy who sat in front of his TV, was outraged by everything he saw, and was SURE all the letters he wrote to the TV studio or the government were going to bring change.
Back then, you’d have to get out paper to write or type a letter! You would have to put a stamp on it and go to the post office. Oh boy, if you did that, you were were serious.
The rise of social media has changed that a bit.
Now, with one click, people can share or like something, and be sure that they are raising awareness. Each time I ask people about their post, they tell me they are acting on a problem. They are posting a picture of ISIS setting a guy on fire because we need to raise awareness… remembering that it happened ensures it’ll never happen again.
I was literally told that my a stranger on Facebook when we both commented on a friend’s post.
I thought that was self-deceptive. I asked over and over what action they have taken and what change they have created by posting that image. They were SURE that they were doing something important by sharing this ISIS article, and that I was just someone who wanted to ignore the issues and sit in my “bubble of privilege.”
Privilege: a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people.
Considering that the strangers I tend to battle are employed American vegans, there is a certain amount of privilege we all have just by being employed Americans with smartphones, clean water, a comfy place to sleep, a job, the right to speak our minds without being in jail for life, etc… We are all enjoying privileges most of the rest of the world doesn’t have. Being vegan is a privilege. Can you imagine most of the world turning down food because it was made with an egg or some milk? Most of the world lacks food or clean water, and wouldn’t dare to be that picky.
That means that they genuinely believe that by sharing or posting a local, national, or global issue to Facebook, they are actively doing something about it. They might even believe that by posting this picture as their avatar for an hour, they are doing something about cancer.
Remember how we were supposed to stop Kony in 2012?
The Wikipedia article goes into a good story about slacktivism related to the big Kony 2012 campaign. Remember we were supposed to stop a terrible guy Africa wasn’t able to stop for years? The guys who made the film raised over $31M… and used that to make another film. Kony wasn’t stopped. But a lot of people probably thought from their armchairs or iPhones that they were saving Africa from a bad dude by donating to American filmmakers.
What can you do to create change or take action?
While petitions may sometimes help, Facebook sharing and posting rarely does. I’ve never seen someone post something to “raise awareness” that was either something I never heard of OR something I could do anything about. What can I do about breast cancer other than be checked regularly? What can I do about a woman raped in India? I wish I could solve everything, but at the very least, I know that posting pictures and stories of human and animal horrors only serves to delivery horrific visuals to people.
I guess I don’t know what to do because these articles and pictures so rarely come with instructions on what to do. Where can I volunteer? What is the best charity to support for whatever this is? What does my donation do or go to?
What will help most? If posting your picture as my Facebook profile picture for an hour is REALLY what helps you the most, then sure, I can do that. But I bet there’s something else I should be doing if I really care about that cause. Tell me what that is. Tell me what my options are if I only care a little. I’m not going vegan. What else can I do that helps animals?
In UX, that’s the CTA, the call to action. In interfaces we design, we need something that is the clear call to action. Here is what we want you to do and here is what you click to start doing it. Slacktivism needs more clear CTAs.
Posting an article on your Facebook isn’t action. You didn’t create change. And even though many of us know or remember that happened, just remembering it doesn’t mean history won’t repeat (no matter what that famous quote says). The people repeating the horrors of history are proud people who are sure they’re doing the right thing. The rest of us remembering history has no effect on what driven people feel they need to go and do.
Remember to drive your fans to the action and change that they can make. If I can’t make any change, then let’s not see that picture. I don’t need real-life horror added to my day (and neither do you). I don’t need pictures of stories of child prostitution, human trafficking, people murdering gay people, terrorists beheading people, people gleefully abusing animals, the list goes on way too long. You didn’t even like reading that list! So definitely don’t post pictures… unless I can stop that, change that, or help history not repeat.