#Racismmustfall these are just a few of the trending topics that have been making the rounds on social media lately. This has given rise to the age of the “slacktivist”. Everyday people log onto the internet and pledge their unwavering support towards a cause, when in actual fact they are sitting behind a desk, in a comfortable office, staring at a screen. With an inclination to tell the rest of the country (and often the world) what is moral and just and how we should all stand together to overcome whatever social, political or economic problem our country is facing.
The internet has given rise to a generation of faceless, lazy, name-calling bullies. Who are quick to judge others for not retweeting in so doing not “supporting the cause”. When it’s all said and done and the revolution has been tweeted and televised will you be able to say that you made a difference? Will you be able to say you were a part of a movement that united a generation so divided by race and inequality? When the events of the past months are written down in the history books will you be able to say you were there? Will future generations hear the story of you tweeting about it? “I remember the #Zumamustfall campaign, I tweeted about it the day my fellow comrades marched to the Union Buildings”.
I can’t deny that social media has played a big role in creating awareness for various issues and raised red flags where previously the status quo was not questioned. Thus making sure that the cries of those on the front line was heard and taken seriously. When the #Feesmustfall campaign started students in South Africa (past, present and future) picked up an electronic device and tweeted for dear life. It started trending, what seemed like almost immediately, on various social platforms and everyone seemed to have something to say. On the 23 October 2015 when almost 30 000 student and parents (not forgetting a couple of trouble makers) marched to the union buildings around 300 tweets were sent per minute, according to twitter, informing those at home and work of everything happening at the scene. One good thing that came from all the social media updates that week and the pressure added by a lot (and I mean a lot) of slacktivists was that companies joined the revolution and helped in different ways by delivering food and water to protesters. Which I must admit gives it a bit of a positive spin.
I have also been a slacktivist, putting in the least amount of work necessary and thinking that “I did something good today”. When in actual fact it’s putting a post-it on a random building in the CBD of Johannesburg and expecting it to invoke change. At the same time we can’t ignore that if 10 000 people all put a post-it on the same building it will probably draw attention, but is it enough?
The life span of an online campaign is usually not very long, but it’s not always about longevity, it’s often times about drawing attention to the cause and making sure those that are responsible are shamed. At the same time ensuring that thousands of people participate in fear of being called “anti-revolutionary”. Your FOMO and fear of being a social outcast, because if you didn’t tweet you didn’t care, would inevitably lead you to tweeting and retweeting until you sympathised with the cause.
Every generation has got its own way of dealing with social injustices, our generation chooses to be heard and be prominent without having to sacrifice anything. We are very comfortable with pointing fingers and directing others towards the problem (from behind a computer screen), but changing your avatar or updating our status isn’t a form of participation, it just shows support!
As long as people feel like their basic human rights are being undermined and their needs aren’t being catered to there will always be one or two that will stand up and fight and there will always be those who understand and support the cause and will be right there with them trying to make a difference, but because we are millennials and we are plugged in, there will also be plenty of slacktivist who will show their support for the cause, unfortunately a lot of them will do it with bullying and name-calling until the idea of change is at least considered by the wrongdoer and until the onlookers are herded like sheep to follow the revolution.