Perhaps the most attractive side of this trend is the knowledge that one has participated in a good cause yet with minimal effort. But can you end world poverty and conflicts by sharing a post on Facebook? Can a hashtag trigger a pivotal change that stops a brutal dictator oppressing citizens? – Hsin-Yi Lo
Hashtag activism, slacktivism, online activism: no matter how you slice it; it’s all the same thing.
Philip Howard, the Principal Investigator for Digital Activism Research Project, defined hashtag activism as “…what happens when someone tries to raise public awareness of a political issue using some clever or biting keyword on social media.” However, from the New Yorker journalist Malcolm Gladwell‘s perspective, online activism is “the way of the new style activist who just signs online petitions and shares on Facebook, instead of the banner waving, old fashioned street style, brawling with coppers activist days”.
Hey, it’s OK. We’ve all done it. We click, like or share a social media item and BAM… we’ve made a difference. But have we? Is this “click and change the world” model enough?
While I’m totally aware of the more negative, slacktivist side of this phenomenon, I truly believe that there is merit to be had in the the notion that raising awareness on an issue is a form of protest in itself. However, there are times when raising awareness is simply not enough, and that’s where the downside of online activism comes in to play.
The real question is: is this new style of “activism” a legitimate form of protest or simply a way for us to feel good about ourselves, to feel like we’re actually making a difference, by clicking the “share” or “retweet” buttons. Essentially, is hashtag activism #powerful or #pointless?