Activism or “Slacktivism”

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Activism or “Slacktivism”

Yasmina Mansour, Sentry Staff Reporter

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As Australia struggles to fight disastrous infernos and the deadly consequences that arise from nearly five straight months of bush fires, officials are also battling campaigns of misinformation. With news of the fires hitting social media platforms faster than they are hitting newsstands, it is no wonder hoaxes and fraud are running rampant. 

Gaining clout is a primary focus for a majority of these campaigns; pledging to donate money to wildfire relief in exchange for likes and shares. Yet these accounts are rarely legitimate and fail to show how they plan to bring their promises to fruition. Although the campaigns are more of a nuisance than fraudulent, the effects are not innocuous. When people share these posts they are duped into believing they have successfully contributed to wildfire relief. Aside from bringing light to the issue at hand, the posts do not bring any inherent benefit to Australia. While an increase in awareness may cause a slight spike in donations, there is no data to prove this scenario is playing out due to these campaigns. Additionally, if users believe they are contributing funds by sharing a post they are less inclined to donate to a genuine source.  

While a majority of these campaigns are relatively harmless, others are a fraud. A disaster or political cause is the perfect cover for fake donations and money laundering. In October, a fake Facebook page claimed to be connected to President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and duped hundreds of people into donating. Facebook later discovered the page belonged to a grocery store in Los Angeles. This fake page was able to run for an extended period of time because users never thought to fact check the origin of the campaign. 

This situation is not unique, but rather a social pattern coined as “slacktivism.” It is defined as the act of supporting a cause through simple measurers without being truly engaged or devoted to creating change. Social media can be a powerful tool when it comes to social justice and activism as a whole. Yet this constant cycle of slacktivism reveals a pattern of ignorance and more importantly, indifference. 

Slacktivism is often catalyzed by a major event like the Australian fires. While awareness is a crucial part of any movement, it cannot be the only part. Sharing fake donation pages and quick facts can only do so much for a cause; nothing can be truly accomplished without groundwork activism. This systematic failure in the culture of social media has shifted the focus from enacting change to trying to pin the blame for issues on a single actor. In the case of Australia, people have been quick to point fingers at arsonists and government officials through social media posts rather than spreading ways to help. 

In the sea of posts shared about the fires, a minimal number of them actually contain information on how to contribute to relief efforts. While clout is an incentive behind many of these useless posts, select groups assume it leads to deeper engagement. The logic is, by asking users for token forms of support, attention for the cause and the likelihood of the government enacting change will increase. However, regarding Australia this tactic is futile. The government is aware of the fires, and at this point, all necessary action has been taken. 

While flying to Australia and becoming a volunteer firefighter is not a tangible way people can provide support, there are ways to push past slacktivism and truly contribute to relief. First and foremost, ceasing the circulation of “share to donate” pages. Before sharing any information, ensure that it is factual and still relevant. However, donating to reputable organizations is the most substantial and beneficial type of aid for Australia.   

To help Australia wildfire relief, you can donate directly to the Australian Red Cross at redcross.org.au or to fire departments throughout the country through their websites.