With the creation of top-named social media networks, like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, a new wave of social media activist campaign strategies have emerged. With over one million links on Facebook being shared every 20 minutes, and 190 million Tweets posted each day, it is easy to see why activists have turned to social media to spread their message. While on the front these social media activist campaigns seem to be generating a lot of attention, but is this a sign of success and is it making an impact today.
Activist vs Slacktivits
Many experts in the activism field are suggesting that social media activism does not only have no impact on the campaign itself, but it is actually having a negative impact on activism in general. These experts believe that social media is creating a generation of slacktivists. Unlike the activist, who actively fights for social, economic, environmental, or political change, the slacktivist only participate in measures that make them feel good, but typically play no real role in making change. For example, these slacktivists may like a cause on Facebook or repost a tweet about a certain social campaign, but they are not actively involved in the organization or cause.
Does Awareness Transition into Change?
Other experts combat this theory by noting that by spreading the word about a certain social, economic, environmental or political causes, it will generate awareness of these causes to a vast number of people. There can be no doubt, that social media activism does bring about better awareness. The bigger question is does this awareness translate into real change.
Many people look at the Kony 2012 YouTube campaign to answer this question. This YouTube video about an African militia, the Lord’s Resistance Army, led by Joseph Kony, detailed the dangerous activities of this group that include rapes, massacres, and the recruitment of child soldiers. The video was able to generate over 1 million views on YouTube in just the one week.
This, at least, in part led the US Congress to pass a resolution against this militia. However, when the video’s creators, Invisible Children, planned a night for awareness, it drew very little people. This was mostly blamed for controversy that surrounded the video, but it certainly shows that while people were willing to view the video and even like and share the video, they were not willing to take an active role in fighting for this cause. In the end, Kony has still not been arrested and continues to commit these heinous crimes. Did any real change occur?
What Is the Impact of Social Media Activism?
It is clear to see that social media does play an active role in bringing awareness to certain issues. However, there are so many issues on these various networks, it is likely that most people do not give the cause a second thought after hitting the like button. Worse than that is the fact, the many people, especially the generation Y group, believe that this type of activism is enough to show support for a certain issue. When it comes time to volunteer their time, show up at a protest, open up their wallets, or even head to the voting booth, they are not so willing to step up to the plate.
Therefore, while awareness is needed and a good starting point for some causes and non-profit organizations, it only offers limited solutions and is not enough to bring about real and lasting change. These causes also need the volunteers and the funds to play an active role in making any type of significant change. While social media may have its place, if more people do not step up and take an active role in activism, real change that impacts the world may be hard to see.