This morning I did a little work on the global fight against HIV/AIDS. Then I joined an environmental protest against genetically modified food and another one supporting undocumented workers. And, of course, a little feminist consciousness-raising.Man, are my fingers tired.
You see, all this activism was accomplished while sitting on the sofa, computer in my lap, sipping my morning coffee. I merely opened my inbox and responded to various requests to sign online petitions or to like, share or re-tweet in favor of causes I support — or against those I oppose.Who knew changing the world could be so easy?It’s called “slacktivism” a combination of the words “slacker” and “activism” by critics and refers to any feel-good effort, usually online, that requires minimal effort or investment, whether financial or personal.
Heidi Schlumpf is a communications teacher at Aurora University in Chicago and a regular NCR columnist. Her thought-provoking article on “slacktivism” addresses many questions, including the value of cyber-support of issues. Is pressing the “Like” button on a Facebook page the same as hitting the pavement in protest? Is sending an online donation the same as spending an hour in a soup kitchen?
It’s a shame that we always feel the urge to place everything into a hierarchical list, neatly categorizing what person, thing, issue, action, etc are better than or worse than another. Schlumpf does a nice job of showing that all efforts for promoting and working toward the good of society are valuable. And, the means of choice often depends on our current life’s circumstances. Age, mobility, family and work responsibilities are all factors that can limit our participation in social activism. Online activism can be a wonderful way to remain socially involved and make a difference.
I’ve had a similar dialogue going on in my head with regards to writing. Almost daily, I put pen to paper (okay, bang away at my keyboard) about spiritual matters, issues in the church, and the need for peace and justice in the world. Meanwhile, many of my friends are facilitating retreats and prayer workshops, providing spiritual accompaniment, participating in liturgical and catechetical work in their parishes, and getting involved first-hand in peace and justice work on the front-lines.
While I am writing, they are doing.
As an avid reader, I know the power of the written word. Words and ideas can inspire. They can nudge us to think in new ways, in deeper ways. They can be a spring-board for action. But, should I be doing more and writing less? Is my blogging merely a form of “slacktivism”?
I have a feeling that this question will not go away. And, it shouldn’t. It is good to keep evaluating our motives; to ask why we do what we do. Yes there is a personal, almost therapeutic side to blogging. It has given me an opportunity to speak out on many issues that have been roaming around in my mind and heart for a long time. But, my hope has always been that my sharing will encourage a respectful dialogue. And with dialogue, perhaps a wee bit of change.
Each response on the discussion becomes one more nudge to keep writing. So, keep on writing and I will too!