Tag Archives: slacktivism

You Are Not The Flag You Wave, Or “Enough with the Equal Signs for Profile Pics”

Yesterday, I saw a picture of Kabul, taken in what must have been the late 70s or early 80s. It was either in or near a university- I recall there being a stone courtyard with tall, shady trees and an ornate water fountain. There were also a couple of young women, wearing short sleeves and pants, carrying their books. The comment section for this picture was awash with sighs about “how beautiful Afghanistan had been” once upon a time and “what a shame it was that religion had come along and messed it all up!”

I was, needless to say, a little ticked off by the responses to the picture. While there were a few people who managed to point out that Islam didn’t one day appear in Afghanistan and wipe out every last vestige of modernism (and that a major Soviet invasion may have played a part as well), for the most part it was all comments on the terrible threat to civilization religion plays. Continue reading

Slacktivism, or: Elisa feels bad about saying that philanthropy might not always be awesome

This New York Times 2010 article, which I think ends rather too optimistically, discusses two instances of the Red Cross’ use of Twitter to help raise funds from the US after a typhoon in the Philippines and the following earthquake in Haiti a few months later. After the typhoon, the Red Cross’ toll-free donation number was a trending topic on Twitter; the article says that thousands of people were posting it and asking their followers to donate – but, in spite of all of the Twitter attention, there wasn’t any noticeable change in donations. After the Haiti earthquakes, the Red Cross launched a similar Twitter campaign, but instead of having to call a number, people could just text a single word to a certain number to donate $10. The Red Cross raised 3 million dollars in 48 hours.

Beyond the moral and ethical questions about slacktivism, simple practical issues interest me: how much people’s altruism increases in relation to its ease, if distanced giving lets us avoid the overwhelming sense of incompleteness and unending need that often comes from volunteering or working for charities in RL…

And yeah, social networking has done wonders for people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to communicate or have a way to organize themselves – the election protests in Iran, for example. But I’m talking about things like the hunger site, where you go to their adful page and click a button to give “the value of 1.1 cups of food” to feed the hungry (also, now, to support education, veterans, abandoned pets, mammograms, the rainforest…), or care2.com, which has a similar “click once to give” thing as well as a “Petition Site” which literally has a “Today’s Hottest Petitions” link on their home page.

It seems like each separate out-of-borders emergency or consistently-in-need-of-funding-issue has a random YouTube video’s chance at viraldom to make it in to the public’s consciousness long enough for us to donate to it.

Yeah, every dollar that’s made via slacktivism, either the free advertiser-supported kind or the donate-easily-via-texting kind, does work. But the satisfied well-that’s-my-good-deed-for-the-week feeling that such distanced altruism gives is worrisome, because it instills a conclusive, complacent feeling that will ultimately be the death of any culture’s drive towards public service and philanthropy.