Politics and activism

Stop slacktivism now!

Protest banner
Pic from Indymedia

So you’ve got a beef? Something’s wrong with the world and you want it fixed?

Don’t be fooled — joining a Facebook group won’t change it. Adding a ribbon to your Twitter avatar won’t change it. Leaving a comment on a blog won’t change it. All these forms of Slactivism may help you feel like you’re doing something, but in reality they rarely change anything.

Ah yes โ€“ the new way to lazily attempt to impress your opinion on… someone… the Facebook pages. If your only action is to join some … Facebook page then you really don’t care about the issue that much.
Commenter on Lifehacker

LikeTo give another example closer to my pet interest:

… if you just want to get rid of your anger, by all means tweet it into space with #transitFAIL. But you’ve done nothing to improve your transit system.

I’m all for social networking (my God, how long have I been blogging?), but if you want something to change, you have to actually get off your arse and do something.

Because unless many thousands of people join your Facebook page (very rare) or read your tweet, or comment on your blog, and it becomes so big that gets into the mainstream media, it’ll never really influence public opinion to any great extent, and nothing will happen.

1.3 million people read the Herald Sun; The Age about half that. Unless you’re Stephen Fry, it’s unlikely the number of people reading your tweets or looking at your Facebook page will reach even a hundredth of those numbers.

What you really need to do is stir up debate, and find and target those who make the decisions.

Write a letter – to your local or daily newspaper, get people talking about it.

Find a group campaigning on your issue – join them and get active – they can probably do with your help.

Contact your local councillor or Member of Parliament or candidate for office – by letter, by phone, or go and make an appointment and go and see them. If it’s a corporation, track down a contact in there and lobby them.

Get media coverage – hold a rally, hold a stunt, start a petition, get your message out there.

Oh, you don’t think your voice will have any effect?

Then remember that a few years ago, a team of three got the government to reverse its decision not to run trains all-night on New Year’s Eve.

In Victoria we have a state election coming up in about six weeks. And it’s not blindingly obvious who’s going to win. If you have a state issue, there has never been a more important time to make your voice heard.

Oh, before you do all that, join my Facebook page, of course.

Then get busy.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

11 replies on “Stop slacktivism now!”

Once upon a time a group of bogans joined Facebook and got ‘Hey Hey It’s Saturday’ back on the air.

And there ends the saddest story ever told.

Interesting point Daniel. I guess I am in some ways a typical slacktivist with how I rant in my blog, and while I don’t really expect it to have any influence, I enjoy doing it and expressing my thoughts.

But when the government changed the Youth Allowance rules, I wrote to the Education Minister and her Opposition counterpart (and the Government eventually did a minor backflip too). The Age has published my letters. And guess who just got one of those lovely orange PTUA bumper stickers (though still yet to attend my first meeting).

So I think there’s a bit of room for both kinds of “activism”, but I agree that you can’t expect the world to change just because you blogged about it

I was planning on joining a protest rally in the city the other day but it was raining so I stayed home. Now that’s slack!

As someone who is extremely tired of the constant “change your status to where you put your handbag cos that’ll help breast cancer” fb messages. Thank you.

I’ve written so many letters to various MPs that I’m pretty sure they just have my name on an “throw out and send a generic response letter” list….

I’ve written a few letters to The Herald Sun and The Age, but I’m yet to have had anything published, perhaps I need to stop writing letters in the heat of me being especially pissed off about something so that I can proof read properly before chucking the letter in the mail….

It can be quite disheartening to feel like you’re putting in a lot of effort whilst feeling like your message is falling on deaf ears.

Certainly the Victorian Labor Government seems to be hearing the messages and talking a lot, but it’s hard to take their promises seriously whilst they promise the world with one side of their mouth (20% CO2 reduction by 2020, plenty of public transport promises) and then the same old same old with the other (new brown coal power-plants, more and more freeways)…

@par, Hey Hey’s resurrection may have been linked to the FB group, true – but its survival will depend on actual viewers, and it’s not doing outstandingly there.

@Lucas, good on you, keep it up.

@Julian, getting a letter into the paper does take care. Keep it short (preferably under 100 words) and yeah, do wait until you can write something that doesn’t sound too ranty!

@mikeys, time to get back to it then!

Of course the pre-election environment is a bit different, so I’m writing one letter per day (approx round-robin between HS, Age, and the Leader in my area), and attended a Transport Forum.

But for other than election times … I’ve done submissions to 3 inquiries (2 broad topics), so my question is … how effective is a submission and/or fronting up to a senate inquiry?

I might say a bit of what I’ve submitted has stuck :-)

@Julian, I’ve had a few published, ranging form the very short/sharp (transport, and a bankrupt employer), to a longer one about software patents (shortly after M$ got sued). Unfortunately, some issues take a bit of explaining, and with these ones, you run the risk of an editor not quite understanding the issue either editing out an important point or confusing it with a different (vaguely related) issue.

But I think that most of the current hot topics (except for telecommunications) are fairly simple, and therefore a “get straight to the point” method is appropriate, optionally with a small elaboration afterwards.


Precisely why I joined the PTUA. (Well, that, and the discounted yearly Metcards.) I figured I’d spent long enough ranting about what was wrong with public transport, and it was time to start actually trying to do something about it.

My workplace (Melbourne city fringe) has very little parking available, so most of my colleagues use public transport. And they complain about it as much as I do. But do you think I can persuade any of them to join the PTUA?

Before I attend each PTUA meeting, I invite my workmates to come along with me. (“Yes, you’ll have to join, but the cost is minuscule compared with the discount you’ll receive on your Metcard.” “No, they won’t twist your arm to do anything.”) I leave PTUA flyers and membership forms around the office, emphasising the discounted Metcards. So far, not one person has taken up the offer, that I know of. And still they complain about public transport. [Throws up hands in despair] What more can you do?

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