Opinion | The rise of slacktivism

Posting on social media is not enough when supporting a cause. Turn those posts into meaningful conversations.


Elise Cagnard, Opinions Columnist

As we’re all painfully aware, the world has been going through a troubling few years. Tragedy has struck, one after another, including the pandemic, instances of police brutality, and the war in Ukraine.

There have been varying responses to these tragedies. Some people act as though nothing has happened and continue with their everyday lives. Others devote themselves, body and soul, to a cause.

In between these two extremes, there is a level of response that has been dubbed slacktivism.

It is more than likely that you know a slacktivist. There’s a chance that you yourself are a slacktivist.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with that term, a slacktivist is someone who supports a cause on social media but in reality, does very little to actually aid the cause.

More specifically, these are the people who post vague things on social media. They spread no useful information and provide no resources to monetarily contribute to a cause. The key identifier of a slacktivist is that posting on social media does not translate into having meaningful conversations about the issue.

A prime example of this is the ominous black squares that flooded Instagram feeds on June 2, 2020 in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. While the intentions were pure, this simply turned into the next trend and lost its meaningfulness due to the lack of conversation it sparked.

A more recent example can be some of the demonstrations that have been done in support of the war in Ukraine. Scrolling through social media apps, you are bombarded with videos of people dying their hair for Ukraine, working out for Ukraine, painting their nails for Ukraine.

Just like the Black Lives Matter movement, people doing these trends are not being malicious, but without providing any other information, this action is meaningless and does not provide any support.

The act of posting such things on social media can help people feel useful and part of the cause. While cultivating this feeling around a movement is imperative, the issue is there is a disconnect between posting on social media and taking the next step by having these meaningful conversations with people in your everyday life.

This is a key part in furthering a movement, and the rise of slacktivism has arguably led many movements to stall. Once people post, they believe they have fully contributed what they can and move on with their day. This mindset needs to be banished.

There is so much more that needs to be done. Small acts like donating money to a cause or spreading useful information to keep others informed. More bold acts such as participating in protests or reaching out to your local representative. These things are what further a movement.

I want to make clear that this is not an opinion piece condemning people for posting important news on social media. The emphasis is on stopping the flow of inane and useless information that simply clogs up social media feeds and leads nowhere.

The act of posting information on social media is not necessarily slacktivism. There are many ways to positively influence a movement through social media. Spreading helpful information and links to donate can seriously help further a cause. Also it can help bridge the gap between international news that we otherwise would know nothing about.

If you’ve read through this article and realized that you yourself might be guilty of being a slacktivist, don’t fret. The way forward is to hold yourself accountable and leave these tendencies behind.

Next time you are passionate about an issue, don’t stop at posting an infographic on your story. Talk to your friends, talk to your family, talk to everyone and anyone. That’s how you turn a post into a movement.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.