As I was scrolling through Instagram the other day, I noticed something in common between the people that I follow. Everyone had reposted a video on the effects of climate change on the coral reef on their story.
While the video was very informative, I had to wonder: do that many people really care about coral reefs? Considering the amount of plastic bags and bottles I see around campus, probably not.
This phenomenon is just another example of “slacktivism,” in which people like social media posts, tweet or repost so they can “contribute” to a political cause online.
The foundation for slacktivism is that it requires very little effort — reposting a video to an Instagram story takes about 10 seconds maximum.
People often engage in slacktivism to make it seem like they are politically active, when in reality, they are contributing almost nothing to the cause. As a result, this increasing culture of laziness undermines the effort needed to make actual political change.
Slacktivism plays right into social media’s tendency for self-gratification. After posting something and receiving hundreds of nice comments, you tend to feel good about yourself. The same concept applies here — people feel satisfied after simply liking or reposting something political, thinking that they have done enough to contribute to the cause.
But let’s be honest: how does liking a post do anything to bring change to society? Martin Luther King would be rolling in his grave seeing this.
I saw this play out with the shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, Calif. in November 2019. I witnessed someone make an offensive joke about the tragedy, to which they were reprimanded by their friends.
A couple of hours later, I saw that same person post “Pray for Saugus” on their Instagram story in order to “redeem” themselves. If that doesn’t show how useless these posts are, I don’t know what does.
However, it wasn’t just that one person who shared the post. Almost every single person I know had “Pray for Saugus” on their story. Along with this, many were urging their classmates to wear blue the next day to show solidarity.
While I understand the motivation behind it, does wearing blue really help Saugus or America’s gun violence epidemic? The only people affected are those wearing blue themselves — they feel good about “standing up for a cause” even though they didn’t do anything meaningful. Because of this, no change occurs and the cycle repeats itself.
By “making change,” I don’t necessarily mean leading a national protest movement. There are smaller ways to contribute to a cause, such as volunteering or connecting with organizations that you’re passionate about.
Our generation needs to understand that actions like these speak volumes more than a simple retweet.