How Studying Abroad Helps Kill Slacktivism
I saw a great quote from shark conversationalist @SharkGirlMadi the other day: “If social media ceased to exist tomorrow, would you still be changing the world?” You’ve seen the obvious examples. Ones likes, “Put your bra colour as your Facebook status to show you support breast cancer.” Or, “One like = one prayer.”
There are, however, some more insidious culprits. Posting a picture of the ocean with an inspiring quote about how we should all do more to take care of it. Re-tweeting an article about refugee crises and condemning those responsible.
On their face, there is nothing wrong with any of these actions. Awareness is valuable in its own right, and social media has long been a place for expression of personal opinion. The issue I take with it is that too often, we use social media to assuage our guilt regarding our own culpability. Facebook is a bandaid placed over any need to review our own belief systems and follow them up with action. Instagram soothes the anxiety that we may in fact be contributing to the problem.
It’s an easy trap to fall into though, because the fact is, preaching feels good, and social media makes it so, so easy. But how can you make sure that ‘awareness raising’ is backed up with real action?
Travel the world
This is perhaps one of the most effective educational tools there is. Whilst a shared article is perhaps one of the easiest things to ignore and disconnect from, being physical present somewhere allows an infinitely deeper understanding of the challenges facing that region and those people, as well as how we might make a difference.
It also means that if or when you do decide to share your perspective, it comes from a more engaging, personal place. In some cases, travel also allows us to directly share our skills and resources with groups who need them. It’s easy – for every belief that you want to champion, find how you can make an actual, effectual difference to that cause and then volunteer your time and energy.
Relate your passion for the world (whatever aspect gets you fired up) back to your life and the people in it. Your own experience is a lot more convincing than some unknown writer you’re reposting.
Make proper use of social media.
Globalisation and the use of networks and connections has made real action easier than ever. Social media can do a lot more than just promote slacktivism. It can help us get in touch with volunteer organisations; educate us on what lifestyle choices to make to better uphold our values; and connect us with brands that use ethical processes. It allows international cooperation on a global scale, which is the only way forward for so many of the world’s most complex issues.
Don’t stomp on other people’s passions.
Just because you feel your passion is the most important, that doesn’t mean that other people’s are any less important. There are plenty of worthy causes, and as much as yours feels like the most critical, everyone has something particular that really gets them fired up. Embrace it.
Vote with an educated voice.
This also empowers you to be able to use social media more effectively if you so choose, suggesting tangible ways for people to get involved in the same way you have, as opposed to ‘awareness’ that is often easily swept aside and tenuously connected to any real action.
‘Slacktivism’ is a mark of the social media age and the need it creates in us to validate our own belief system. It’s an easy trap to fall into, but it’s also easily avoided. It just requires us to keep checking ourselves for the substance behind our words.