by Derri Smith
I learned a new word at a recent meeting for an issue that’s troubled me for some time: Slacktivism. Through experience and observation, I find many organizations, faith communities and individuals who earn the label. They love to “like” pages, be a fan, display a badge or widget, sign petitions and attend glitzy shows, usually with big name celebrities and shocking stories and images about human trafficking. Ardent slacktivists announce on social media that they will meet a real need, but privately don’t follow through.
Slacktivism helps us feel good, look cool and be seen. The nonprofit community provides many prime opportunities for slacktivists. But, in the human trafficking field, the real-life outcome of slacktivism often hurts survivors and impedes the work of those engaged day-to-day and year-to-year in real, tangible efforts. Here is what I’ve seen and grieved over:
Slacktivism requires little of us, whereas substantive ground-level work requires sacrifice of time and resources. Instant feel-good moments are rare for activists; but there is profound satisfaction in small victories, and great value in a staunch determination to stay on course to help survivors over the long haul. The “recovering slacktivist” wrestles with drama and disappointment in pursuit of a survivor’s best good. Activists stay humble, realizing that we are messy people trying to help messy people—not adrenaline charged slacktivists making symbolic statements for the sake of “those slaves.” Really caring means holding back on tweets, Facebook statuses or Instagrams when it might put the survivor’s safety and privacy at risk.
Recovering from slacktivism will likely mean facing unpleasant truths about self and trading the concept of “saving those people” for either walking humbly and wisely beside the survivor or supporting those who do. Slacktivist recovery is a great program for learning from those in the trenches—both survivors and those who daily give them care.
Slacktivists are mostly well-meaning people, and they are numerous, whereas activists are rare. They’re people willing to roll up sleeves and do the hard work of love, support, being there through failures and successes over the long haul and making sacrifices. When a few slacktivists become activists, the dynamics change in favor of survivors.
Which path will you choose?
P.S. Don’t get me wrong; sharing , “liking” and widgets certainly have their place. Let’s just not stop there. Ok?