A 2018 study shows that activism via social media is on the rise and that a large majorities of Americans believe sites such as #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo are very or somewhat important for accomplishing a range of political goals. However, opinions that online activism is not activism continue to multiply, while think tanks and activists continue to reflect on how to drive online activism to offline action.
A main challenge remains: very often current and popular social and political activism remains an online action limiting its offline impact to a ‘flash in the pan’.
Act-ivism needs act-ions not a simple click on social media with a very short lifespan. “I don’t need your tweet, I need your feet”, says Tamika Mallory, co-chair of the Women’s March. Activists must be active to be agents of change, and possibly they should be proactive at local level and in their everyday life. But the online activism, also know as ‘armchair activism’ or ‘hashtag activism’ or ‘clicktivism’ or ‘slacktivism’ often remains an online activity. A recent survey shows that ‘Millennials’ post a lot on social media but do not consider these actions the likeliest to bring about change.
These online actions mushroom overnight and multiply rapidly, gathering fast and easy support of thousands people thanks to the algorithm of social media. Decision-makers and the media are aware that often these initiatives did not develop from the grassroots commitment and that they are short-lived if not a ‘flash in the pan’. For this, they are no longer surprised and impressed by the high numbers of online supporters. On the contrary, they reverse and use this factor at their own advantage to avoid taking these actions seriously, and wait for the latest online storm to pass to justify their decision to discredit the issue and ignore actions’ demands. Often these online initiatives do not produce rapid and tangible results, and this can generate campaigners’ frustration and disappointment.
In order for meaningful activism to stay alive and have an impact “we need to collectively make sure that the twiddle of our thumbs mirrors collective offline participation through advocacy” (Kgalalelo Kedijang, 2018).
Although current popular forms of activism are through the click, wannabe activists can still be convinced to ‘go out there’ to become more engaged and be actors rather than spectators of the change they want to see. #Click&Commit should be set as the golden rule of social and political online activism!
Learn about the other weaknesses we have identified.