Activism through social media has long been criticized to be more of a ‘feel good’ thing rather than of actual significance. Seriously, how much real life impact can one achieve merely by liking posts on his/her newsfeed and sharing one occasionally? No wonder terms like ‘Slacktivism’ came into place, mocking the slack impact of online heroism.
A fascinating aspect of social media is that it gives everyone an equal platform to flourish. Opinion of any random citizen actually gets voiced, a significant contrast from mainstream media. The label ‘Slacktivist’ accuses the online population of becoming too comfortable with this newly found voice and starting to believe that merely an angry post on Facebook can weigh equal as a demonstration with fiery placards.
But is it really like that?
Researchers have been pondering over this very question for the last one decade, trying to figure out how the relatively new world of social media voices its significance to interact with offline decision making. And surprising insights have been gained.
Before the age of Social media, activism was a concept for enthusiasts mainly; and organizing volunteers for any cause was a daunting task even with modern media tools like newspaper and email in hand. With the aid of social media, reaching out to a larger audience has become dramatically easier. While one cannot expect that everyone who shares a post of a particular social cause will actually donate their time and money on it, the net increase in voluntary participation has indeed increased from before the age of social media.
In recent events in our country we notice a remarkable impact of social media. Immediately after the disastrous event of Savar, a call for blood donation spread on Facebook on an emergency basis. People rushed to hospitals and temporary blood camps—and didn’t stop just there. They gathered dry food, medicine, oxygen and what not, rushed to the incident spot with spirit and utmost dedication, even died smilingly.
A significant portion of this amazing voluntary act started with a simple blood donation call. On Facebook.
And when the aid gathered at Savar seemed enough for emergency needs, people started planning on long terms, so that raised funds could be used to help victim families earn a living.
[Food for thought: Shahbag incident might also fall on the same side of the coin– starting from Facebook, and later turning into a real life incident. Consider the opposite side of the coin too. The victims of Tazrin fire incident. The shop owners of Baitul Mukarram market whose shops were burnt down in the 5th May occurrence. The Hefazat members dying in the same occurrence. The family of Bishwajit. So on and so forth. No Facebook event. No voluntary aid, short or long term.]
Aligning the discussion to the previously mentioned ‘Slacktivism’: certainly not everyone who posted on Facebook about Savar actually volunteered in rescuing victims from the wreckage. Not everyone could donate money, blood, food or medicine. But the fact that everyone showed their common, united stand for the cause certainly generated an immense amount of passion. Activism, in this particular case, was certainly not ‘slack’.
Now a new question needs to be answered. Clearly this passion is pure and energetic, but how deep and lasting is it? T-20 is fascinating, but it is Test Cricket that takes massive temperament to survive in. Activism in the modern days is being greatly aided by the social media tools, but is it enough to generate dedication in long term activities? Posting on Facebook was easy. Rushing to Savar to volunteer for a week was hard. Dedicating time and energy on long term rehab for years? Test cricket is a lame comparison indeed.
Is Social Media really up to the task of generating such dedication?