Yes, I envied my friends who joined the 34th Milo Marathon and the Tour of the Fire Flies Cycling Events.

 

Yes, I changed my Facebook profile picture to a Sailormoon cartoon character.

 

Yes, I wore green political bracelet last May Election Campaign Period.

 

Yes, I liked Greenpeace Philippines’ website and became their fan.

 

Yes, I wore black ribbon during the death of my loved ones.

 

Yes, I signed petition to pass the Renewable Energy Bill.

 

Yes, I bought a Christmas card from Pizza Hut.

 

Yes, I shared to my friends the Lipad video.

 

These are just eight signs of being a slacktivist; I am proud and will continue to be one.

 

Vague Definition of Slacktivism

These past few weeks, I have read blogs and have learned from my friends about some people arguing about the act of the Facebook enthusiasts who supported UNICEF’s advocacy of raising awareness about stopping child abuse. To some, the act of changing one’s profile picture to a cartoon character is lazy, ineffective and pointless.

Honestly, the term slacktivism (or slackervism) is new to me, so I searched for the definition and found its meaning:

 “(Slacktivism) means an act of participating in obviously pointless activities as an expedient alternative to actually expending effort to fix a problem.”

 “It is formed out of the two words: slacker and activism.”

 “It is a feel good effect on someone who supports issue or social cause that (has) little or no practical effect on other (people) than to make the person doing it (feels) satisfaction.”

 The first definition is vague. How any one can measure a “pointless” activity? Or exactly, what do you mean when you say pointless? The definition given is subjective that is why it is prone to many interpretations. What is pointless or meaningless to you could mean a lot to me, or in other people, in some other way. Also, when you exert an effort, this does not necessarily mean you have to fix a problem. Someone may act on something because they just want to. For example, people may like a specific site and they will not be entitled to explain to the world why they actually like it. In the end, we all have our rights to exercise what we believe in (except of course, in violation of certain laws or moral beliefs).

When we look at the word slacker, it means lazy. When we combine two terms: slacker and activism, it will bring us the word slacktivism to connote as lazy activism. So again, this gives a negative meaning to the word, which I would like to defend in my next argument.

Would you call lazy activists the APO members who led the Oblation Run in the University of the Philippines, in their call to condemn the recent reduction of education budget for state universities? How about the mourning family members, who call for justice, of the journalists killed in Maguindanao? These people do not make direct impact to fix the problem (call for justice) when they run naked or wear black shirts, but will it be fair and justified to call these activists’ activities as lazy and pointless?

If other people consider petition signing as a “lazy activism”; well for some, it is actually referred to as a form of “online activism”- a positive connotation. Today, different organizations consider online activities as effective measures in conveying their messages for various reasons such as it is environmental friendly (they do not need to produce too much paper for flyers, pamphlets, etc); cost-effective; accessible; and fast tool of communication.

In my opinion, the term slacktivism is problematic- it is one of the gobbledygooks, which Jose A. Carrillo identified in his book ‘English Plain and Simple; No Nonsense Ways to Learn Today’s Global Language’ as words weakening the prose fiber. Examples of gobbledygooks were predetermination and antidisestablishmentarianism. Some writers create words that are long and nice-sounding but in fact do not perform. For them, these words may sound sensible but have vague meaning to others. Try to search the word slacktivism in the Miriam-Webster Online Dictionary, and you will never find it. Their search engine will give you this answer The word you’ve entered isn’t in the dictionary. Click on a spelling suggestion below or try again using the search bar above.” I guess its non-existence is due to having the term unrecognized by the scholars. 

Slacktivism is activism

Below are the slacktivists’ activities according to some bloggers (10 Signs You Might Be A Slacktivist by Top Online Colleges.com):

      1. If you wear awareness bracelets;

     2. If you join a Facebook group for a cause;

     3. If you wear colored t-shirts to support different causes;

     4. If you put a ribbon magnet on your vehicle to support a cause;

     5. If you sign Internet petitions;

     6. If you participate in short-term boycotts;

     7. If you post YouTube videos of yourself discussing issues;

     8. If you change your avatar or update your Facebook statuses for a cause;

     9. If you simply “like” something on Facebook; and

     10. If you go to a book signing.

 In my introduction, I acquired eight out of ten of these signs. I have participated on these activities and I will continue to support for the following reasons:

My friends who joined the 34th Milo Marathon supported the campaign to give the young but poor beneficiaries of this event a pair of shoes; my cyclist friends joined the Tour of the Fire Flies to help raise awareness about the health benefits of biking to the enthusiasts as well as to show the low-carbon footprint impact on the environment of using a bike as a transportation means compared to the use of private cars.

I changed my Facebook profile picture to a Sailormoon cartoon character in support of an awareness raising campaign against child abuse.

 I wore green political bracelet last May 2010 Election Campaign Period in support of Gibo Teodoro for his Presidency (As newly elected president, I support P-Noy in His way to “Daang Matuwid”. Who would want a crooked way?).

 I wore black ribbon or black shirt to grief, mourn and to show my sincerest sympathy to the families (especially dearest to me) who lost their loved ones.

I bought a Christmas card from Pizza Hut to support their cause in feeding the poor children this Yule Tide Season.

I shared to my friends the Lipad video, an advertisement about Children against Violence Campaign to show my support in the vision of the Quezon City local government led by Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista, to make Quezon City a Child Friendly City. 

I liked Greenpeace Philippines’ website (an international environmental organization) and became their fan because for the past ten years of their existence in the country they had tremendously made a positive impact on raising awareness and lobbying bills about water, forest, and ocean conservation; climate change, electronic wastes, genetically modified organisms, among others (Please check their website at www.greenpeace.org.ph).

I signed petition to pass the Renewable Energy Bill and I am honoured to be part of this campaign when it was enacted last October 7, 2008. The Philippine government received commendation from different environmental organizations including World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Greenpeace who made effort to raise awareness about the global warming issue.

In his press statement, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Executive Director Von Hernandez said:

 “Once enacted, (the Renewable Energy Act of 2008) is expected not only to end our
dependence on climate changing fossil fuels, but also help propel the Philippines towards a low-carbon path of economic prosperity and genuine sustainable development. Through this law, we hope to see less and less development of dirty coal power plants and more investments in clean, renewable energy systems.”

The act of signing petition is not lazy; if it is, it should have not gone this far and become successful in persuading our legislators to pass this important bill.

In general, I neither see anything wrong with the ten signs mentioned above nor find these lazy. In fact, when used properly and with specific goal, these activities were actually effective tools in conveying the right message and initiate actions that will produce positive results.

According to Cindy Leonard in her blog “In defense of Slactivism”, she too, does not see slacktivists as lazy people. Just like her, people who were actually busy in performing their duties at home, at work, at school, at church or at the community but support good causes (e.g. environmental conservation, human rights protection, etc.) appreciate the act of organizations that uses Facebook, My Space or other Social Network Sites in delivering their message. In fact, most members become aware of the existence of their organizations through effective campaign strategies such as the use of these social network sites. I will put more emphasis on this on the next argument.  

Clicking your mouse to like a good cause is not a lazy act. It is actually a good start to become catalysts of change.

 

Slacktivism as a campaign strategy

As opposed to some who see the ten signs as negative, these were actually good campaign strategies. What is a campaign strategy? It is an organised, purposeful effort to create change; guided by thoughtful planning.

Why Greenpeace in the past few months (before the cartoon campaign) asked its supporters to change their profile picture using P-Noy’s image with message: P-Noy Be a Hero; Lead the Energy Revolution?  It was about asking President Noynoy Aquino to commit and  sign up to a 50% renewable energy by 2020 roadmap for the Philippines to leave a legacy of safe, prosperous and clean future for the Filipino people.

Thus it makes any sense? Yes, of course. Does it seem lazy? I don’t think so.

Before taking action, good and successful campaigners learn as much as possible about the existing situation: who is affected by the campaign; what changes can be used to improve the situation; what resources or tactics or tools are available to implement campaign. All of these information campaigners use to guide them in planning, implementing, marketing, monitoring, improving and evaluating their campaign.

Going back to the changing the profile picture issue, campaigners used Facebook to measure how many people were actually concerned about child abuse or reducing further impacts of climate change (Why not take advantage of using Facebook that has 500 million active users as of July 2010? To ask people to change profile picture was neither difficult to do nor cause any one harm, anyway). To some who think the act was just a form of “lazy activism” or a “pointless” act; since many changed their profile pictures, to campaigners the act was actually effective! Kudos to them and all the supporters! (Applause. Applause).

Slacktivism as Corporate Social Responsibility

Again, I would like to emphasize that companies like Pizza Hut or Milo that sells Christmas card and organizes Marathon Event, respectively, were doing their part in performing their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). I know, you would argue, how much these companies paid me to write about it? The answer is none. I just visited the restaurant with my friends and eat there; my office colleagues and college batch mates participated in the marathon. Also, you may argue that, “Hey, these companies were doing these to earn profits!” I would say, “Do you have any hard evidence?” Maybe. But it does not necessarily mean that since there was money involved in the event, the company or organization is already taking advantage of other concerned people. I, being active in different types of organization, could say that, raising fund to pursue the cause is the hardest part. So, I understand that there is nothing wrong in asking for membership fee to become part of any organization; or in this topic, Pizza Hut selling greeting cards and Milo asking for registration fee to be able to participate in the said marathon.

We need to support companies who were giving generous portion of their sales for good causes. If we will not, who will?

 

Slacktivism brings change

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

This quote from George Bernard Shaw said it all, perfectly. Also, Dr. Wayne W. Dyer who was an author of a New York Times Best Selling Book has written “Change Your Thoughts- Change Your Life” book.

In connection with our topic, as I said, slacktivism is an effective campaign tool because it changes thoughts. Once you change your thought, you change your action. You change your action, you change your life. And when every one else’s employ the same, what change is undesirable to human kind?

In 1980’s, Filipinos believe that wearing yellow ribbon is a symbol of opposition against the Martial Law Era. When then Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr was exiled and flew back to the Philippines, his supporters tied yellow ribbons along the streets of Metro Manila to welcome him back, but he never saw them. As he stepped of the plane at the Manila Airport, Aquino was shot and killed, leading to a series of dramatic events such as EDSA People Power Revolution and overthrowing of Ferdinand Marcos. In 2009, yellow and the yellow ribbon reappeared, first as a sign of support to the former President Corazon Aquino as she struggled with cancer, and then as a sign of remembrance and respect when she died. To mourn about the nation’s loss, people wore yellow shirts, tied yellow ribbons along the street, and integrated yellow and yellow ribbons into their blogs and Facebook pages. This year, wearing a yellow ribbon consisting of electrical tape around ones index finger signified support of the We Are One Filipino Movement for the Presidency of Benigno Aquino, III.

Why this was effective? Because it changed thoughts! It brought action! Then there was change! Who then would underestimate the power of tying a yellow ribbon?

Slacktivism is better than passivity and indifference

If other people think that changing profile picture to a cartoon character was not good enough to show support for the victims of child abuse, well, maybe yes, the effort was insufficient. But how about when that same person (who changed profile picture) went home and saw his broken PSP, his three-year-old son as a culprit; will he employ violence over the poor child after being reminded of the importance of respecting child’s rights? The answer depends upon different people. Some would say, “Yes, definitely he must slap his son for being too careless!” However, others would say, “No, I will just talk to my son and say that he must not repeat the same act again.” My point is, by raising awareness, we somehow contribute to change. When we change the thoughts, we change actions and we bring positive impact; as compared to the passive and the indifferent who refused to learn and eventually, take a stand.

Which is better: someone who voted for P-Noy and prior to that actively purchased yellow items and flaunted it to show support? Or someone who did not exercise one’s right to vote?

How about someone who watched an advocacy film and recommended the same to other friends? Or someone who stayed inside the home, ignored friends’ invite to watch the said film since one found it irrelevant, anyway?

I believe that slacktivists are better than the passive and indifferent individuals. Yes, by wearing a black ribbon or shirt during the burial ceremony of my closest friend, I did not directly helped him to recover his loss; but for him, my mere presence and my wearing of these traditional symbols of showing condolence, matters a lot (Of course, you can argue that I may attend burial without wearing a black shirt; but will it be OK to some culture to attend burial wearing loud and printed colors like red and florals, for example?)

I remember the song of Joey Ayala entitled Magkabilaan, the lyrics goes like this:

may kaliwa’t may kanan sa ating lipunan
patuloy ang pagtutunggali, patuloy ang paglalaban
pumanig ka, pumanig ka. huwag nang ipagpaliban pa
ang di makapagpasiya ay maiipit sa gitna”

To be able to survive in this world, we need to take a stand- it’s either we go to right or to left; to go to heaven or go to hell. Who is right or wrong is a different question.

Slacktivists are not super-heroes but they can make positive and drastic change

I believe that every individual who were helping others even in their smallest ways were heroes on their own. These people may not be like superman or wonder woman but remember, these great imaginary icons also bleed and get hurt; in other words, they  also have certain limitations and weaknesses- e.g. kryptonite for superman.

Yes, slacktivists may not have all the time in the world and all types of resources to give; but definitely, little by little, through time and constant motivation and habit, their small acts will become as powerful like the mustard seed that is the smallest but when fully grown becomes the largest of the leafy vegetables.

A diverse opinion is a healthy one

The arguments I presented were somehow based on my research and experience. We are all entitled to our own opinion, anyway. I wrote this to share the same view with people out there who have the signs of slacktivism; some sort of explaining our side after reading the arguments of people who sees the negative side of the word.

To end up this article, I just like to share my greatest lesson learned when I was still a student from the College of Forestry in UP Los Baños that says: diversity is healthy. In ecology, the more types of fauna and flora we have, the healthier the environment is.

It is the same with our society, the more opinions people have, the healthier the society is because it means people are thinking. Also, different people take different stand. We can never please every one because if we do to please ourselves, we will fail.

At the end of all of this, as a slacktivist, I quote Mahatma Gandhi, “Be the change you want to see in the world”.

If the efforts I mentioned were not enough to make a change, or pointless; to me any small act of kindness is great as long as the intention is good. Sooner or later, this will bring desirable change.

May I ask? When was the last time you act to show that you care? How? You think it was sufficient to make a difference? If not, why not?

Sources:

Carrillo, Jose A, English Plain and Simple: No Nonsense Ways to Learn Today’s Global Language, Manila, Philippines: Manila Times Publishing Corporation, 2008.

www.greenpeace.org.ph

www.answers.yahoo.com

solargenerationyouth.multiply.com/…/Philippine_Senate_finally_passes_the_Renewable_Energy_Bill

http://www.gmanews.tv/…/Greenpeace-calls-on-Senate-to-approve-renewable-energy-bill

http://en.wikipedia.org

www.joeyayala.com

http://kooki.multiply.com/journal/item/90/Magkabilaan_ni_Joey_Ayala

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/slacktivism

http://www.pr-inside.com/philippines-renewable-energy-bill-r850601.htm

http://www.informationactivism.org/basic1

http://www.answers.com/topic/slacktivism

http://www.coyotecommunications.com/culture/online2offline.shtml

http://www.charityvillage.com/cv/archive/acov/acov10/acov1023.asp

http://coyoteblog.posterous.com/slackervism-on-facebook-again?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

http://www.toponlinecolleges.com/blog/2010/10-signs-you-might-be-a-slacktivist/

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=slacktivism

http://endgoal.org/2010/10/18/passionate-activism-or-fashionate-slacktivism/

http://www.varsity.co.uk/comment/2991

http://artoftheprank.com/2008/06/05/slacktivism-pointless-pursuits-of-ineffective-activism/

http://hotworldnews.livejournal.com/2010/12/06/

http://cultureandcommunication.org/tdm/nmrs/fa2/2010/11/14/slacktivism-is-activism/

Advertisements

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