Gone are the days when we hear about catastrophic and heartbreaking news from the six o’clock broadcast. Now, it starts with one breaking-news tweet. Next, a friend shares an article on Facebook. In no time at all, our feeds are filled with nothing but the latest global crisis or trending social cause.
As our modern-day water cooler, social media can be a powerful tool where hearts can be moved and lives can be changed. Millennials tapping into this tool can constantly be found using the megaphone of social media to declare what they care about and why. More often than not, indignation is splattered relentlessly across our computer screens as we share our opinions and links to news stories. Anything to say to the world: I care. This matters!
Thus, slacktivism is born.
Critics argue that slacktivism (sometimes known as hashtag activism) is unproductive and only makes supporters feel like they are contributing. While some awareness is raised, a complex social issue is being boiled down to a hashtag without identifying tangible ways to tackle it.
On the other hand, fans of slacktivism cite movements like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge as evidence that slacktivism can do more than just spread awareness. It has the power to move people to take action and the capability to actually raise money to advance a cause.
Amidst the praise and criticism, both parties seem to agree that this new social phenomenon is in need of some general guidelines. So how can we turn our sympathy and empathy into more than just a like or share? How do we use social media well for something we’re passionate about?
Before you post, consider these ideas on how to be an effective slacktivist.
- You can’t care about everything.
Compassion fatigue is real. And more importantly, you can’t actually solve all the world’s problems. Pick one or two and dig deep. Make tangible efforts to support it. First, give your time, money, or services, and second, become a social media advocate. Tweeting up a storm or commenting on posts with strong opinions about everything and anything is a sure-fire way to lose credibility with your followers.
- Inform yourself.
There’s a learning curve to being an effective slacktivist for a cause. Make sure you put in the time and effort to educate yourself before you share that link or cap your tweet with that hashtag. Your education goes a million miles to changing hearts when you can be trusted as knowledgeable. Remember to speak intelligently and with compassion, not anger.
- Share your story.
Chances are there’s a real and personal reason why you care so deeply about this cause. Tell people why. Be vulnerable. Vulnerability gives birth to a certain type of exposure that has the ability to bring forth real change. Share your story. Connect hearts, not just heads.
- Humanize the need.
An individual need tugs at our heartstrings. Empathy is most powerful when it’s directed toward one identifiable person. When a single person is in need, we think, “I can make a difference.” When many people are in need, we are easily overwhelmed and paralyzed with our own triviality. In the words of Mother Teresa, “If I look at the mass I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.”
- Have a call to action.
Ask people to do something concrete and easy to follow. Shine the spotlight on the action rather than the commitment. By making the specific act of giving visible, people actually have to put in the effort to look good.
We’re not naive enough to think that changing a profile picture or tweeting that social activism hashtag will change the world. However, it’s one way to stand with humanity and say: We care.