Youth civic participation and online slacktivism

I’ve interested in youth online activism and been studying on this issue.
In my research, I find an interesting phenomenon, “Slacktivism”, so I’d like to write about this topic.

Dissemination of online services and its use for online activism

Recently, rapid development and dissemination of online communication services such as social networking services enabled social activists use these tools for announcement of their activities. 
These online services contribute to the promotion of social cause and gather participants at less cost and less power compared to when activists have not acquired these services.

Casualty of internet and emergence of slasktivism

However, at the same time, because of its casualty of the usage, some criticism against the use of online media argue these online services have generated “slacktivism”, activities that are low-key and easy participate in, increasing the “feel-good” factor for participants, but that do little to affect major change (Christensen, 2011).

Clicking “Like” button of the organization’s facebook page and changing the profile icons into the particular image which advocate political or social opinions are typical examples of slacktivism. People who act in this way have no willing to participate in the further painful action such as donation and demonstration, so it sometimes result in social activists fail to assemble associates who continuously support their activity. The opinions toward slacktivism are not unified. Some critics claim that casual forms of participation may result is low-quality, redundant, and generally insubstantial commenting by the public (Shulman, 2009), others suggest that targeted online campaigning may successfully contribute to push interested persons into offline political action (Breuer, 2012).

What makes the difference between slacktivism and further participation?

The reasons people continuously joining social activity vary. In respect of behaviors of followers, Kristofferson (2013) has experienced what conditions of initial token acts have high potential to generate subsequent support and found that displaying the first token acts in low social observability is the condition that would significantly effective to lead participants to further involvement in the activities. The research also revealed that if people have a high level of affective involvement with the cause, displaying public token support can lead to higher subsequent support than when the token support is made in private (Krisofferson, 2013). It suggested that the motivation of followers have a stronger effect on their decision-making than situation they are asked for help.

Kristofferson’s research is quite interesting. However, I think this research is too experimental and I did not feel this result can be applied to our everyday life. The reason why slacktivism happens has not clearly explained yet, but and I think this phenomenon is not only in cyberspace. I have seen many people who have disappeared in the half way of the activity and it is inevitable. To keep the motivation of participants is a really problematic issue on the activities.

As Harris(2008) states, youth activism beyond the control of adults is sometimes marginalized and criticized. However, I do not think this is the only reason youth activism cannot be massive movement. At the same time, there are many activities that end only in the cyberspace and be doubtful whether that movement actually change the world. In order to make the activism successful one, the way to involve the participants to further activities need to be researched.

References

Breuer, A. (2012). Online Political Participation: Slacktivism or Efficiency Increased Activism? Evidence from the Brazillian Ficha Limpa Campaingn. 
Available at SSRN:
http://ssrn.com/abstract=2179035 (Last accessed 01/06/2015)


Christensen, H. (2011). Political activities on the Internet: Slacktivism or political participation by other means? First Monday,16, 2. 
Available at: 
http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3336/2767 (Last accessed 01/06/2015) 


Harris, A. (2008). Young women, late modern politics, and the participatory possibilities of online cultures. Journal of Youth Studies. 11(5). pp.481–495


Kristofferson, K. (2013). The Nature of Slacktivism: How the Social Observability of an Initial Act of Token Support Affects Subsequent Proposal Action. Journal of Consumer Research, 40. Available at: 
http://www.jcr-admin.org/files/pressPDFs/110613150600_KristoffersonArticle.pdf 
(Last accessed 01/06/2015)


Shulman, S. W. (2009). The case against mass e‐mails: Perverse incentives and low quality public participation in US federal rulemaking. Policy & Internet 1(1): 23–53.

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