What the Hell is Retired Slactivist Supposed to Mean, Anyway?Posted: July 27, 2014
Good question. A nice follow up would probably be “And why the hell is your picture a couch? (And a comfy couch at that!)
I first heard of the word “slacktivist” in 2012; I was volunteering full time, up to my eyeballs in a human rights organization that shall remain nameless. The nameless organization just so happened to launch the most viral Youtube video ever and I saw very quickly some of the best sides and some of the worst sides of humanity – specifically internet humanity. There were about a million teenagers around the country crying and pressing the share button and posting, tweeting, and tumbling in the name of human rights. All of a sudden, these too-smart-for-their-own-good internet blogging troll nutheads were taking to the internet to take stabs at my friends who were responsible for this craze. And before we knew it, we were all classified as Slacktivists.
Wikipedia has this to say about slacktivism, which is lengthy and wordy and for that I am sorry. Bear with me:
Slacktivism (sometimes slactivism or slackervism) is a portmanteau of the words slacker and activism. The word is usually considered a pejorative term that describes “feel-good” measures, in support of an issue or social cause, that have little or no practical effect other than to make the person doing it take satisfaction from the feeling they have contributed. The acts tend to require minimal personal effort from the slacktivist. The underlying assumption being promoted by the term is that these low cost efforts substitute for more substantive actions rather than supplementing them, although this assumption has not been borne out by research. Slacktivist activities include signing Internet petitions, joining a community organization without contributing to the organization’s efforts, copying and pasting of social network statuses or messages or altering one’s personal data or avatar on social network services. Research is beginning to explore the connection between the concept and modern activism/advocacy, as groups are increasingly using social media to facilitate civic engagement and collective action. The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS describes the term “slacktivist”, saying it “posits that people who support a cause by performing simple measures are not truly engaged or devoted to making a change”.
20 year old me rears his head and has to make a couple points since we’re running on this bunny trail:
1) Why in the world would somebody use the word “portmanteau”? Ever. Especially when there’s a nice 3 letter word like “mix” available? Come on, internet.
2) None of this slacktivism talk has been backed up by any research. Who knows? Maybe it is helpful.
3) If sharing information is considered slacking, then is the answer to not share? If somebody didn’t share, does that mean they’re not slacking compared to the slacking share-er? Using this reasoning, the answer would seem to be to do nothing, which feels an awful lot like selling out.
I digress. This argument is two years old.
The point is, when I reflect on my time in super-hyper Nonprofitlandia, there are a couple of things that jump out to me. The first is that we talked very fondly about this wonderful, caring, loving, passionate community that we had created, but that community was largely on social media sites. The Facebook friends that we made through our work definitely made us feel squishy on the inside, but every minute that we spent staring at a computer screen was a minute-long attack on our social, physical, and mental well-being. My fiancé and I were good friends at the time, and she told me that she was worried about me – we were working ourselves to death, not eating properly, not taking care of our bodies. We were like rock stars, yes, but we were in an industry that takes and takes and takes and doesn’t give you a break. Ever. When your internship is up/layoff occurs/real life calls, you get off the plane and have no idea where to go from there.
Over the past two and a half years I’ve taken a hiatus from the internet to focus on my own personal health – physically, mentally, socially, spiritually. (Side note: it turns out that social media has an adverse affect on things like your happiness and, if left unchecked, can lead to depression. I accidentally discovered one way to increase your happiness level: get rid of social media.) I’ve spent several years wrestling with what it means to be a man, and how to live an adult life that hold true to the ideals that gave us such courage and vision when we were younger.
The exciting things that keep me up at night as I’m preparing to enter the blogosphere is that this blog has the potential to be a meeting ground for any that are living with that internal conflict. We get to question how to function as an adult while still living a passionate, meaningful life. I’m somewhat worried to be getting back online and I’m very aware of the fact that as we move our conversations away from “How do we change the world?” and begin conversations of “How do we make a prolonged, sustained, impact in the town or city where I live?” it will require for me to practice what I preach. It will also require things like patience because these are the hard tasks, the ones worth pouring yourself into. I believe that the best life is a simple life, one that allows you to better your city, your neighborhood, your family, and the piece of earth that you happen to exist upon.
I say all of this to say welcome to a new age of Retired Slacktivity. Enjoy the ride.