At The Conversation, Jennifer Earl makes a good argument for online “slacktivism” as a complement — not a substitute — to traditional forms of activism. As she writes,
Decades of research show that people will be more willing to engage in activism that is easy, and less costly – emotionally, physically, or financially. For example, more than a million people used social media to “check in” at the Standing Rock Reservation, center of the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. Far fewer people – just a few thousand – have traveled to the North Dakota camps to brave the arriving winter weather and risk arrest.
Once people are primed to act, it’s important not to discourage them from taking that step, however small. Preliminary findings from my team’s current research suggest that people just beginning to explore activism can be disheartened by bring criticized for doing something wrong. Part of the reason people volunteer is to feel good about themselves and effective about changing the world. Shaming them for making “small change” is a way to reduce numbers of protesters, not to increase them. Shaming can also create a legacy of political inactivity: Turning kids off from involvement now could encourage decades of disengagement.