It seems everybody these days has the potential to become a social activist. With convergence the way it is, all you really need is an issue and a smartphone.
With your Iphone in hand it’s easy to make that new campaign page on Facebook, spread your message on BlogPress, rally those supporters on Linked-In, organize that mass event on Twitter, record that protest you made and edit it into a hard-hitting, life changing, emotional masterpiece on Imovie and then upload it straight to YouTube where it can be streamed and shared to people all over the world.
So in a way ,yes, it is true that apptivism (as I like to call it) “has the potential to transform the spontaneous outburst of demonstrations and renewed interest in the radical left into a coherent, highly organized and efficient movement” (Adam Waldron 2010), but at the same time, what we are seeing nowadays is not legitimate and effective activism but rather the creation of a passive ‘slacktivist’ culture in which people would rather like a Facebook page than actually go out and try to make a difference. Micah White argued in The Guardian that ‘digital activists’ promoting ‘clicktivism’ are endangering the very ‘possibility of an emancipatory revolution in our lifetimes’. This is something that I half agree with.
The First thing we need to look at when examining the role of ‘digital activism’ is to look at the motives of those involved. When people support these causes are they doing it because they are legitimately concerned about the issue or are they doing to make themselves feel good about doing good. Maybe they want others to think their making a difference, or maybe they’re just pro-anti (supporting or going against something for the sake of supporting or going against it).
The Next thing we need to look at is the level of impact ‘digital activism’ has. Is it really that effective? I mean yes, it gathers support for issues and yes it has the potential to generate mass awareness, but does it have the potential to generate actual change? Personally believe that yes it can, but at the same time I feel that no it doesn’t and this only because my personal experience with online activism has been witnessing a whole bunch of online communities discussing their concerns but doing nothing about them (This is called slacktivism). How does liking a page on Facebook or re-tweeting a link make a difference offline?
Don’t get me wrong though, I do believe online activism has potential. Take the Occupy Wall Street protests for example, originally a protest encampment that started out with a few dozen students and unemployed university graduates. Within weeks it inspired thousands of New Yorkers to join, and spawned scores of similar protests around the country. (Click here for Source). And look at Kony 2012, that campaign literally took the world by storm, for a while it was everywhere; it was all everyone was talking about. There is no doubt that it raised awareness on a mass global scale and got thousands of people all over the world involved. However, I still am unsure of whether to call that campaign a success or not because I am still asking myself the question, what did it actually achieve. Other than inform people of an injustice, what political change did it make? and now a year later, no one is talking about it anymore, it seems to have just faded away without any real significance.
In order for ‘clicktivist’ campaign to be successful I feel it needs to call people to action offline, not just gather support and awareness online, but I can’t deny that it’s a good start and I have no doubt that online activism could and will lead to some major social and political changes in the near future.