Clicktivism, does it really help?

Activism has always had an important place in societies throughout the world. Activism involves promoting, delaying, or directing social, political, economic, or environmental change. It can take the form of terrorism, or economic activism such as boycotts, strikes, street marches, sit-ins, and hunger strikes. However, not all types of activism are so extreme, it can also include simply writing letters to newspapers or politicians and political campaigning or voting. According to Henry Jenkins, “Those (children) whose parents are politically involved, who encounter teachers who bring current events into the classroom, who are encouraged to volunteer, and who participate in extracurricular activities are much more likely to engage in future political and civic activities than those who lack these experiences.”

The rise of social, and other digital media, has seen an equally large rise in the way that NGOs utilise the Internet for campaigning. Technopedia.com defines Clicktivism as “the use of social media and the Internet to advance social causes”. One major example of clicktivism is the kony 2012 campaign, orchestrated by the U.S charity group “Invisible children”. This campaign went viral thanks to a 30 minute video uploaded to YouTube about the need to stop Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, a military group that has operated in Africa since the 1980s. People were buying activation packs and spreading the word through the various social media sites. It seemed like everyone was emotionally affected by the tragedy of child soldiers in Uganda. However, i highly doubt anyone promoting the campaign on my Facebook newsfeed actually bothered to look deeper into the issue. These teenagers were receiving the information and taking it as the truth, with no employment of critical thinking or suspicion. A year later kony has still not been caught, despite nearly $20 million being raised by the 2012 campaign, and according to news.com.au, more of the money raised was spent on promotion and marketing than the actual program.

Opponents of clicktivism believe that it reduces activism to a mere mouse-click, yielding numbers with little or no real engagement or commitment to the cause. This is something I wholeheartedly agree with. Watching a video and thinking you are helping, or liking a photo because it says if you don’t the sick girl in the picture will die, is just ridiculous. I mean, I’m all for promoting causes and helping out wherever you can, but that involves actually doing something to help the person or organisation, rather than clicking a button. Also, the reputation of the organisation is one thing to look into before you spend possibly thousands of dollars to volunteer overseas or donate to the cause. I personally like to know that most of my money is going to good use and will ease the suffering of these people, rather than be spent on advertising or promotion.

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