Wexistential Crises, Wayward Thoughts, Welcome Distractions and Willful Pursuits

On Slacktivism

with 3 comments

(above image taken from Fcuk Earth Hour)

“I think that one of the greatest fallacies of our time — and one of the greatest leaps in logic that is made again and again by people who involve themselves in the worthwhile struggle to bring equality to all people — is the notion that awareness equals involvement. ” – Joshua Ellis, The Kitty Genovese Model

Excerpts from an exchange I had on Twitter that progressed onto e-mail:


I think Filipinos need to go beyond mere expressions of outrage/concern and actually do concrete things to contribute to society.


Good point. But action begins somewhere. If they’re not willing to speak, how can we expect them to act?


If these aren’t followed by action, talk is cheap. I’m just annoyed by slacktivism.


Before the word “slacktivism” was invented, there was a similar term used by those in The Movement to refer to the comrades or kasama who were averse to the more traditional modes of pagkikilos (e.g., rallies, organizing, immersions), and preferred more “intellectual” forms of activism like writing and educational discussions. These kasama were disparagingly called “Armchair Activists,” and it was also used by many in the Left to put down left-leaning “moderate” activists who did not interact with the masses and instead chose to fight for their advocacies from the comfortable, airconditioned rooms of their houses.

…Your views on slacktivism are shared by many, especially those like yourself who are really DOING SOMETHING to make the world a better place. To a certain extent, your opinion of people who engage in (to quote from the Wikipedia entry) “feel-good measures, in support of an issue or social cause, that have little or no practical effect other than to make the person doing it feel satisfaction” like “signing internet petitions, the wearing of wristbands (“awareness bracelets”) with political messages, putting a ribbon magnet on a vehicle, joining a Facebook group, posting issue-oriented YouTube videos, altering one’s personal data or avatar on social network services, or taking part in short-term boycotts such as Buy Nothing Day or Earth Hour” is justified. Again, to a certain extent.

However, I’ve always subscribed to the belief that ANYTHING is better than outright apathy… Let’s keep in mind that no matter how disparaging the term “slacktivism” is, the word “act” can still be found in it––you just have to knock out a couple of letters to get it.

As inconsequential as these “feel-good measures” are, one has to give credit to the people doing these because at least they care enough to do something to assuage the guilt they feel from doing nothing at all. Kung tibak ka noon sa UP, magandang sign na yan. Freshmen students who wore issue-related pins (Ibasura ang TFI!) and attended EDs were considered ripe for organizing; writers who showed some concern for the marginalized in their essays in the school paper were potential recruits. If I were organizing today, I would look at my FB contacts who consistently join FB causes and post “issue-oriented YouTube videos” and invite them to an ED. Then I would invite them to another meeting. And another. Then I would ask them to do some small task––say, maybe, distribute flyers at a particular college––then another, until before you know it, sobrang involved na ang tao na sya na mismo gagalaw ng kusa.

I agree that people aren’t DOING enough, and that talk is CHEAP. But to get people involved enough to convince them to cross the huge divide that separates sentiment from concrete action, one has to take advantage of the means available to sow the seeds of true ACTivism. Kung ang rally o mobilasyon ngayon ay nakikitang laos na porma ng pakikibaka, dapat handa ang mga organiser na magbago ng stratehiya upang mapaunawa sa masa ang isyu at mapakilos ito. Kung tingin ng iba na ang social networking sites ay pwedeng gamitin para mapalahok ang kabataan, di gamitin natin.


I’ve got nothing against “intellectual” forms of activism. In fact, a lot of my activities would fall under that category… I spend a LOT of time talking about democracy and civic duty and social responsibility and volunteerism etc…

No argument between us on the importance of public discourse. You can’t care about things you don’t understand. Awareness and information are definitely key to any kind of social transformation. The more people who understand an issue, the greater their capacity to care about it. (Of course, it doesn’t necessarily follow that if one understands an issue one will have an emotional response and be moved to action, but understanding is a necessary pre-condition for meaningful participation.)

It’s not so much the “feel-good measures” themselves that annoy me. It’s the over-blown sense of self-importance of some of the people who engage in them. Go ahead and wear your IAmNinoy shirt or AkoMismo dog tag or who create a Facebook page for the cause du jour but don’t delude yourself that you’re making some huge contribution to society. Those “feel-good measures” have their place but let’s keep things in perspective. In the greater scheme of things, they mean very little…

I agree that caring a little is better than not caring at all. And that these token expressions of concern are opportunities to engage “slacktivists” in more substantial activities. I’m just petty and irate. 😛

…I feel that if people just do what they can, in the place that they are, in the time that they have, collectively we can do great things.


3 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. […] responses to my previous post (sans the Ako Mismo drama because that just went on way too […]

  2. Glad you liked my line about participation versus awareness. 🙂

    Joshua Ellis

    July 14, 2009 at 5:03 am

    • Thanks for verbalizing one of my biggest pet peeves. 😀


      July 20, 2009 at 10:12 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: