Slacktivism is a relatively new term for "feel-good" measures in support of an issue or social cause that doesn't take much effort. And I feel a little called out as I read more about this phenomenon. I mean, isn't it good that I sign an internet petition? Share a social media post on a subject I feel is important? Well, yeah, but when it it not followed by action on my part, I become a slacker.
Social media can be exhausting- especially for a diplomatic/empath/people-pleaser personality type like me Whether in the expression of an opinion, or sharing information about something I care about regarding politics, religion, the environment or saving animals; taking a position on something that some in my social media (or daily life) world will disagree with can be, well uncomfortable.
And really, why bother? Does sharing an opinion, an article or an issue that stirs debate really accomplish anything?
I hope so.
I want the world to see and feel and understand the horrific cruelty of factory farming, and I want it to stop. But the discomfort it causes spreading the word would cause me to lose "friends". I recognize my white privilege and know my experience in my skin color is completely different and less negative than so many persons of color, and I believe taking a knee is a perfectly fine way to express protest, and know that expressing that opinion as the football season approaches will cause more "debates". I think Trumpism has been terrible and our country is more divided than I've ever seen in my lifetime. From his immature tweets, to his policies that have separated families at the border, I don't like a lot of what is going on, and I want to to do something about it. I want to say something about it, I want to find like-minded people who will help me champion a cause about it. But my non-confrontational personality makes any form of activism a challenge for me.
A few months ago, I told my daughter, Elise Cordle Kennedy, that I needed to take a break from social media because I needed to protect my mental health. What she said made me both proud and ashamed. Proud of her; ashamed of me, for my slacktivism.
She said, "I think we have both an opportunity and a duty to not sit down and stay quiet. There are so many people who are not given the privilege to "sit it out and take a hiatus" from the daily rigor of injustice and persecution that they live. It has been easy to sit down and stay quiet for a long time on so many things: poverty, racial injustice, global warming, international rights for women, LGTBQ discrimination, but the time for staying quiet has long passed; thankfully so. We cannot afford to stay quiet, much like we cannot afford to not participate in our electoral system, much like we cannot afford to patronize businesses run by bigots or jingoists, or the factory farm industry, or the unending list of cruelties and businesses that can no longer be tolerated. We need voices of tenacity, intelligence and stamina, because the fools and charlatans will never be quiet."
Wow. How did she get so smart? So brave. Elise is now studying policy and working toward a Master's Degree where she can fight for change when she believes it's needed. I think I'd like to change the world and step out a bit of my comfort zone...but then reel it back in because I feel I'm not that brave. And I can't debate in the harsh style that so many others who may not be smarter than me but are a lot more confident....and a lot louder.
History's biggest change agents probably weren't very popular. Those women who were jailed and beaten so that I'd have the right to vote probably didn't get invited to the cotillion. Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr, Gloria Steinem , Jenny McCarthy, Cesar Chavez- I bet they were/are pretty intense and maybe not a whole lot of fun at a party as they were out there changing the world with opinions many don't agree with....fighting for civil rights, women's rights HUMAN rights! But where would the world be without them?
I have a friend who speaks out openly on social media and beyond. It has cost her in relationships, and social media 'friends'. I don't always agree on her style, but I usually agree with her position and commend her passion. I think there needs to be some sort of diplomacy even with those we disagree with the most...to accomplish change. If I, for example, I am dealing with a racist, sexist, homophobic human being, and that person is in power, I might have to work hard to learn something about what motivates them, find a common ground point to then be in a position where they might be open to a change in opinion...or at least a lean toward the middle. Sometimes that can sway a vote...and move the needle.
I am going to try to do more to get outside of my comfort zone in a way that I hope I can slack less, and act more over the causes I believe in, whether it's for a candidate, a law that needs changed to protect the environment, or saving puppies, kittens or turtles.
And whether sharing an opinion on social media really makes a difference...well I guess that is for another online debate.