For years, I have seen so-called real activists thumb their noses at those who primarily do their activism online or from home, referring to them disparagingly as slacktivists. I believe it is a false binary that you can either be a “real” activist or a “slacktivist” because those of us who are trying to create a better world often do both, and in my experience, anyone who is truly busy with this work does not have time to keep tabs on others and their activism. The truth is that for many people, like those with chronic illness, social anxiety, lack of dependable transit, challenging work or school schedules, small children or others in their care — or any number of other circumstances — it is simply easier to focus more of their efforts on the good work they can do from home. Should people feel less-than because they can’t go to every protest, rally or canvassing effort? No! For those of us who do go to protests, rallies and canvassing events, we also know that is not enough. As I said, many of us do both forms of activism because that is what is needed to create change.
There are subtle and obvious ways to help build a better world from the comfort of your own home in true “slacktivist” style, plus things we can do every day. I think you will see how very powerful and effective it can be to do the kind of activism that is the crucial work that is changing the world.
Here are ten ways you can change the world as a slacktivist:
1. If you are a man or male-identifying, you can show up in sexist or misogynistic spaces online to advocate for women and female-identifying. If you are white, show up as an advocate against racism. If you are straight, show up as an advocate against bigotry against LBGTQIA+ people. If you are able-bodied, speak up for the disabled. Figure out what your privileges are — and we all have some — and speak up online for those who are being treated unfairly or victimized by hate-speech. Also, report posts on social media that are using hate-speech as well as the people who do it. Please remember to not center yourself in these conversations, identify that you are an ally, not a member of these groups, and always step out of the way for someone of that community to speak their own truth. Speaking as to why discrimination is not acceptable from within a community that is frequently discriminated against can be very taxing, so taking on some of that emotional labor can be helpful.
2. Spend a weekend putting together lists of compelling, trusted links to use when hot button or other important topics show up in your feed on social media but also be prepared to discuss what you’ve posted. Be it in support of immigrant’s rights, against so-called heartbeat bills, on the benefits of a plant-based diet — you name it — sometimes it can be a hassle to find relevant and persuasive articles in the heat of the moment and you will waste valuable time trying to dig up helpful ones you’ve used in the past. Keeping a file of trusted articles on various subjects on your desktop can be a real time-saver.
Some things to keep in mind:
• Try to share with a bit of an introduction to the article you have linked to as well as your thoughts so you’re not just sharing a link impersonally.
• Strive to make what you are sharing as contemporary as possible. I know it is unfair, but many people automatically dismiss articles that are five years or older.
• No one will read a 10,000 word treatise. As a writer, it pains me to admit this but very few people want to read lengthy pieces. Find articles that support your position succinctly but also have longer pieces on standby for those who do want more information and detail.
3. There are websites that publish simple and straightforward actions each week to help build a better world, often through emails and phone calls. I have listed some I use here but many nonprofits also send out alerts to their subscribers, so signing up on mailing lists can help you get access to action steps you can take from home to help the progressive cause.
4. It’s a bit old school but news outlets still publish letters-to-the-editor in both their online and print editions. If you’re looking for some guidance, check out these letter writing tips from the Union of Concerned Scientists and write away!
5. Contacting local organizations to see if you can do any data entry or other computer help from your home is a fantastic way to engage your “slacktavism” from home. Some suggestions for things you can offer to non-profits as a way to help them: Adding names to a database; acting as admin for social media pages (not only finding and posting content, but responding to comments and messages); writing blog entries for websites; finding grants and applying for them; finding businesses to sponsor and/or donate to fundraisers; event logistics (like creating and keeping current a list of venues), etc. Off the computer, addressing and sending mailings, writing “thank you” cards to donors and making phone calls are some examples of ways you can offer to help a non-profit you’d like to support.
6. Choose a dozen or so local and national organizations whose social media you will check in on to share from each day, helping to amplify their posts. Putting even a small amount of personal detail will make the posts more compelling than just sharing links without that.
7. Part of being an effective “slacktivist” is being a trusted source of information: Don’t share articles on social media without reading them first and making sure you’re comfortable with the source. Be a deliberate curator of what you share. Less is more in this regard; share fewer articles that are of better quality.
8. Remember that even for fundraisers or activist events that happen outside your home, the vast majority of the work done behind the scenes is at home and on laptops and phones, a.k.a., the slacktivist tool belt! When we did our fundraising vegan bake sale for immigrants’ rights and asylum-seekers last summer, I’d estimate that 95% of the work we did was beforehand and on computers: Creating spreadsheets that helped with organization; creating social media pages; contacting and keeping up with bakers; reaching out to news outlets, etc. If, for example, you wanted to support a charity or community in need with a food or clothing drive or a fundraiser, you can do the same thing. Get familiar with free resources like Google Drive as a platform for creating, storing and sharing documents, photos and spreadsheets.
9. Creating, signing and sharing petitions is kind of what got people labeled as “slacktivists” in the first place but I am going to go out on a limb as say all these things matter, especially in the collective. You will definitely want to supplement your petitions with other advocacy work, but spending some of your advocacy time on them as a vehicle for change-making is worthwhile. I know some people who start out every morning by spending a little time signing and sharing petitions. On that subject, please check out this very helpful article by the podcast Our Hen House on strategies for writing a successful petition by a Change.org senior campaigner.
10. Last but not least, I have lost count of how many causes I have contributed to or fundraised directly through the Facebook fundraiser capacity we all have access to through the social media platform. All funds raised go directly and with no fees removed by Facebook to the designated charity or recipient. Just in the last week, a fundraiser I created easily exceeded our stretch goal to fund an ad campaign against Chicago’s carriage industry and another fundraiser I created two days ago is well on its way to being fully funding direct aid for detained children being kept in horrid conditions in U.S. detention camps. You can also designate a charity each year to receive funds in honor of your birthday. As one friend told me, she and her husband are doing all their charitable giving now through frequent, relatively small donations on Facebook.
So there you have it: Ten ways to change the world as a slacktivist. Now get busy!