Although we’ve heard the term ‘slacktivism’ being discussed on a national level to identify people whose activist and advocacy efforts start and end online, community activists are eagerly looking for ways to open a dialogue through various platforms in order to raise awareness of the issues they advocate for, gain support and a following, and connect and collaborate with other professionals. So the question many activists, non-profit professionals, and advocates are puzzled by is, how do we utilize social media and an online presence effectively and have our efforts not be misinterpreted as ‘slacktivism’?
Through blogs, engaging Facebook posts, informative tweets, and LinkedIn professional connections and updates, non-profits are finding ways to educate and involve community members in the issues and causes they advocate for. Young activists are constantly doing a checks and balances of what they say online, what articles they post, and what causes they advocate for via the web. Activists, not slacktivists (and we must be sure to make that distinction) are so careful to ensure that their online presence and what they discuss through their social media platforms are genuine and are supported by their passion to inform and educate others on societal ailments, political changes, cultural shifts, and community issues that affect our world every single day. And because 72% of online adults use social networking sites on a regular basis, activists and non-profit professionals have to keep up with the fast-paced and constantly shifting society we live in and one way of keeping that up is to engage in social media (Pew Research Study). Updating social media platforms to meet the quickly changing world we live in is imperative in creating a strong and informed following and in maintaining a legitimate and well-respected organization. Because of the amount of people on social media, non-profits and other social/environmental justice organizations must maximize their online efforts in order to reach as many people as they can in hopes of educating a larger citizenry, maintaining supportive donors, and finding eager and passionate community members to possibly employ. Social media and online networking give leverage to grassroots organizations and non-profits that need all the support and positive contributions they can get. Their financial footing is not as rooted as for-profit companies and their support and power isn’t innate – it’s something that grows, develops, and cultivates over time. Non-profits and grassroots organizations exist for the purpose of meeting community needs, developing a more educated and informed citizenry, promoting social and environmental causes, and alleviating and solving problems that are violating, restricting, and impeding on the lives of others.
So, yes, activists can’t just rely on social media and online networking to spread their message, gain support, sustain donations, and inform the general public, but activists can use social media as a platform and as a virtual megaphone for issues they care about and are passionate about seeing others rally around. Social media is not a means to an end, but it’s a pathway for supporters, critics, and community members to connect and open dialogues that can help spark community and societal change.