Social Activism or Slacktivism?

There is no question that social media has become one of the primary ways that many people communicate and share their lives with others. With statistics showing that 37% of people spend 6 or more hours a week on social media and that there are 1.15 billion Facebook users and 1 billion YouTube users, it’s clear that social media is here to stay (at least for now). One industry that has found huge advantages to getting involved on social media is the nonprofit world. Just check out the following infographic if you don’t believe me!



There have been concerns, however, that the advent of social media and its ties to the nonprofit industry are somewhat damaging to a nonprofits bottom line. “Slacktivism ‘describes ‘feel-good measures’, in support of an issue or social cause, that have little physical or practical effect, other than to make the person doing it feel satisfied that they have contributed’.” We touched on this briefly during a blog post a few months ago in the wake of the Paris attacks. A study  by the University of British Columbia Sauder School of Business found that those who showed support online felt associated with the cause but also lessened their likelihood to commit any tangible resources, such as money, to them.

Other studies have shown that online social movements can have an effect, but it depends on the situation. “Analysis of more than a million tweets by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and New York University (NYU) has found these people on the periphery do play a critical role in spreading the reach of protest movements. The study, published in the journal PLOS One, focused on a few specific protests: the 2013 Gezi Park protests in Turkey, the Indignados movement against austerity in Spain and the Occupy movements. Using location data embedded in the tweets to determine who was at the protest and who was observing online, the researchers looked at how the size of the online activists’ social networks increased the likelihood of other people joining the physical protest. The data showed most modern protests have a minority who are physically active and a much larger group – dubbed ‘the critical periphery’ – who may tweet about it only once or twice but are responsible for doubling the protest’s reach.”

The bottom line is that it is important to think critically about just how far your click can reach. The outcome can vary wildly depending on the situation, and nonprofits often measure their success in dollars and not likes.

Social Activism or Slacktivism?

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