There’s this kind of shitty thing we all do that we occasionally feel an obligatory but ultimately negligible guilt about but continue doing as if there are no consequences of our kind of shitty actions. It goes like this: my phone pings with the bright light of a Gmail notification. “There’s a new petition taking off on Change.org, and we think you might be interested in signing it,” reads the message, a sweet-looking white family smiling up from below the subject line. I skim their earnest plea; my heart brims with sympathy at their plight; out of my own overwhelming generosity, I tack my name at the end of a thousand others, therefore changing the world with a few mere clicks and keyboard strokes.
Or maybe I read about a troubling development in a distant country—a terrorist attack, perhaps, or a kidnapping. There’s a hashtag trending, and I tweet, very passionately, employing the hashtag, attaching a heart-wrenching photo, imploring all 567 of my followers to take two seconds out of their day and perform the same laborious task and #prayfor [fill in the blank]. And I feel, for a moment, a sense of pride and of fulfilled duty. Hey, I made a difference today.
This is slacktivism:”[t]he act of participating in obviously pointless activities as an expedient alternative to actually expending effort to fix a problem,” as phrased by Urban Dictionary user 1Spectre4U. Slacktivism operates upon two inherent human qualities: a quest for the evasive warm fuzzy feeling of performing a good deed and a desire to do nothing at all. Combine the two, and you get a virtual circle jerk of self-approval and ineffective faux-advocacy.