Were you one of the many millions who “rainbowed” your Facebook profile pic when the US Supreme Court legalised gay marriages recently?
Facebook’s co-founder Mark Zuckerberg did it and the rest of the world followed suit. By just clicking on Facebook’s Celebrate Pride link, anybody could have a pretty rainbow profile pic. Too easy. And that’s exactly my point.
I chose not to change my Facebook photo. It’s not that I don’t support gay rights or marriage equality. I do.
I didn’t see the point. Australia is nowhere close to allowing marriage rights for the gay community. I felt that my rainbow Facebook image would be an example of mere clicktivism.
What is clicktivism? It’s when you use social media or any online platform to promote a cause. Friends – and strangers – ‘Like’ your status, your page, your charitable or social cause and it goes viral. Online, at least. What happens in reality might be totally different.
After all, you could be sitting on the couch, watching TV while scrolling through Facebook, absent-mindedly ‘liking’ photos, videos and funny memes. Then and there, with the mere click of your mouse or tap on your smartphone, you have become a digital activist. An ego-boost to give you the warm and fuzzies. Your online friend is happy; and you are happy that you have made him/her happy.
But does this really bring about the social change that the online campaign seeks? How many of us would actually walk the protest walk on polarising subjects like gay rights, immigration detainees, climate change, political unrest, etc.?
Clicktivism supporters argue that by clicking for a particular cause they are showing their solidarity and support for it. ‘Imagine how heartened your gay friends would have been on seeing that you (a straight person) changed your pic,’ they gush. Perhaps. But my gay friends don’t need me to click to know where I stand. Actions speak louder than ‘Like’ buttons.
My criticism of clicktivism is that it often lacks that deeper level of engagement required to bring about social change. Let’s face it, social change requires money and time. So unless you’re willing to put your money where your mouth – and mouse – is, you could become a “slacktivist” – a person who doesn’t really help the movement and could even hamper it with your token gestures.
It’s not all doom and gloom. Remember the Arab spring uprising in Egypt in December 2010? That’s one example I can recall when clicktivism really made a difference. Or how about when you support a charity by donating funds to it online?
So the next time you feel pressurised to ‘Like’ something on social media, ask yourself this: Are you clicking on a post to feel nice about yourself? Are you afraid of being stigmatised and judged if you don’t?
My suggestion would be to stick to a few causes you feel strongly about and really do your bit for these select few. Online and offline.
Where do you stand on the issue of clicktivism? Did you change your Facebook profile photo? If so, what were your reasons?