As social media users interested in social innovation and system change we should warn others about clicktivism delusion.
Needless to say, social media is a great tool of communication, but it would be useful to highlight challenges it poses to social innovation, political reform, social and personal development. Amongst these challenges are: clicktivism, alienation (see p.89), security issues and more.
Here is a short note on clicktivism, term coined by Micah White, and its effects on society.
Clicktivism is one of the aspects of social media to receive critique from activists and scholars in the field of communication for development, human rights, political science and philosophy.
• For a clicktivist communication itself becomes the only action, but the fleetness and the lack of effort behind clicktivism makes it different from journalism and whistleblowing (cases in which communication is the action). It makes it rather detrimental.
When signing a petition, liking or retweeting another good cause, I prefer to ask myself:
• Am I transforming from a thinking individual concerned with social issues and ready to take action into a self-deceiving and lazy? Where is the line between clicktivism and activism? Where does the mere fact of communication can be considered action? Is it amount of work, physical or mental effort which one puts into it? Or is it a tangible result? Which real action can be taken or what kind of mental effort I can add to the simple click? May be a translation?
Main problem I see in clicktivism is that signing petitions and retweeting good causes makes us feel like we’ve done something. Clicktivism has a calming, soothing effect on the annoyed public.
In that respect, letting people tweet freely what they think or sign petitions: allowing them to “let the steam out” can be used by dominant structures as means of control. Another aspect of it, that clicktivists themselves can claim the tangible result as one of clicktivism. The epitome of this is the view of Arab Spring.
READS: One of the best reads to reflect upon clicktivism and other challenges social media presents us with is, of course, “The Society of The Spectacle” by Guy Debord. Other good reads clicktivism.org. There are also academic articles: “Clicktivism or Slacktivism? Impression Management and Moral Licensing”. I will keep adding to this list as I find other relevant reads on this subject.
- Digital activism and organizing: Research review and reading list (journalistsresource.org)
- In Defense of Slacktivism (bigthink.com)
- Avaaz counters accusations of clicktivism and takes on the lion bone trade (wired.co.uk)
- Driving Social Media Engagement and Community Building (staples.com)
- The Convergent Culture Shift. (hannahmartin47.wordpress.com)
- Actions, not Hastags, please! (politicsinkicks.wordpress.com)