The Power of Slacktivism: Inviting Thousands to Take their Next Step
I love to help people take baby steps. You know, like moving from “I truly detest foreigners” to “I’m not terribly fond of foreigners.” That’s a win! Granted, it’s a small step in a journey like the one from here to Saturn, but it’s a step.
I think that’s why I’m a fan of “slacktivism.” You’ve heard of it, eh? It’s a made-up word, combining “slacker,” a person who avoids work or effort, and “activism,” vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change. I love Wikipedia’s take on slacktivism:
“The word is usually considered a pejorative term that describes ‘feel-good’ measures, in support of an issue or social cause, that have little or no practical effect other than to make the person doing it take satisfaction from the feeling they have contributed.”
So you click, like, share, or retweet, but you don’t really do anything. Or at least so it seems.
Three Reasons to Give This a Try
I would like to see us, those who carry a torch for the nations, provide a gazillion opportunities for the people in our networks to like, share, and retweet. Here’s why:
1. It works.
Consider the biggest slacktivist campaign so far, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Despite the stunning observations that not everyone donated, that the campaign wasted clean water so much of the world desperately needs, and that money spent on ice and such might have been given to ALS research instead, and you’ll find this equally stunning point. You probably already know it. Donations to ALS research rose from the typical US$3 million average to over $100 million! I don’t know about you, but I can come up with a plan or two that would benefit from a 3000% increase in funding!
2. Baby steps (can) lead to bigger steps.
To be honest, this point is debatable. A frequently cited study on slacktivism questions whether or not clicking, liking, and sharing actually lead to donating and volunteering. I know my own journey toward commitment to the world looked more like tip-toeing into the pool than cannon-balling into the deep end. But some people will take the plunge. I certainly want to pitch opportunities for people to move to Karachi. But I also want to help thousands of people take their next step, however small, toward blessing the nations.
Sometimes that step is as simple as liking a status, nodding, and thinking, “Yes, this is the kind of thing I’m into.”
3. Big nets catch more fish.
While the work of clicking “like” on a Facebook post will not change the world, it does help spread the word. And as awareness spreads, the likelihood of connecting with someone who is ready to take action increases. As Caitlin Dewey, writing for the Washington Post, says,
“Despite the oft-repeated claim that awareness does nothing, it almost always does something—something small, perhaps, but something measurable.”
Four Things to Do
So how can we put this into action?
1. Offer easy ways to respond.
Commenting on the 2014 Cone Communications Digital Activism Study, Alexis Petru says,
“Organizations should still continue to offer individuals more passive online actions, including ‘liking’ and ‘sharing’ content, but they should also suggest more action-oriented activities like giving feedback and committing to change their behavior. The survey data demonstrates that most Americans want to do more to help their favorite causes, Cone Communications said, but they need organizations to channel this desire-to-help into specific actions that make an impact.”
2. Encourage creative engagement.
Elsewhere, Jacqueline Herrera adds that far more important than a simple ‘like’ is inspiring individuals to upload their own photos, thoughts, and shares on social media in order to emotionally connect with others, thereby creating engagement and organic word-of-mouth in a domino effect.
3. Learn from those who’ve seen it work.
As you think about how to activate your slacktivists, keep in mind some of the key points which Clicktivist.org says made the Ice Bucket Challenge go crazy:
“The timing was right: It landed as a piece of good news in the midst of a summer of depressing global and domestic events. It provided a fun and kindly counterpoint to a sober season.
“It used peer pressure, (mild) humiliation and guilt. By tagging you in the post the challenge calls you out in front of your friends. You can ignore it but then you’ll look bad. So you’re peer pressured and guilted into participating. Some people would prefer to call this social proof.
“It was authentic. This is the one that would be the hardest to replicate. The ice bucket challenge just felt authentic and not like it was cooked up in the back room of an office or that it had been focus grouped. I mean that’s because it wasn’t but still, you get the point. It was simple enough that anyone could have thought of it or started it and that’s something that people liked. They were on an equal playing field and not being directed by an organization.”
4. Don’t forget about the most powerful response, prayer.
One final thought. As followers of Jesus we have the opportunity to converse with the one who’s running the universe about how things are going. On the one hand, C.S. Lewis reminds us, “It is much easier to pray for a bore than to go visit him.” So prayer is slacktivism. But then Oswald Chambers asserts, “Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work.” Somehow, in kindness and mystery, God invites us to join him in shaping the future. As we ask people to retweet and share and like, to give and send and go, we can also offer the immediate response of prayer. Watch a video and pray. “Like” an Instagram picture and pray. Retweet word of a humanitarian crisis, pray, and invite all your buds to pray as well.
The growing Syrian Circle is a brilliant example of this. It mobilized thousands of people to pray for Syrians during the past month. Check it out for ideas and further prayer.
What about in your church? Your organization? How can you provide “right now” response mechanisms that will potentially lead slactivists to greater involvement?
Finally, can I invite you to join me in practicing some slacktivism mobilization by ransacking the website of a new initiative I’m involved in? Go to CareForCatania.com and read, pray, share and let me know what’s broken!