DIGITAL AMERICA

#WeAreAndiola

// Posted by on 03/31/2013 (6:31 PM)

Slacktivism is a relatively new term that combines the terms “slacker” and “activism” and is used to both represent and criticize digital activism for its lack of real, physical, and/or time-consuming action. Slacktivism is anything from tweeting, sharing a photo, or wearing a color or symbol that represents or supports a specific cause. Prominent examples of slacktivism are the Kony 2012 campaign and the Trayvon Martin case. More recently we have seen slacktivists take up the Mexican-American immigration cause.

This past January the police showed up to Erika Andiola’s house and both her mother and brother were handcuffed and detained in immigration detention centers, ready for deportation. Ms. Andiola is the co-founder of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, a group that fights for the rights of immigrant children brought illegally to the United, as she was. Immediately after her mother and brother were hauled away Ms. Andiola posted a video on Youtube.

This video is a prime example of how digital media can turn local issues into global issues. As Ms. Andiola says in the tearful video, “this is not just happening to me, this is happening to families everywhere”. Ms. Andiola’s message was heard by the digital world and her family was released shortly from custody after the Obama administration was put under severe pressure from activists. Activists tooks on Ms. Andiola’s cause through phone calls, e-mails and online petitions, but primarily on Twitter, where they mobilized support under the hashtag, #WeAreAndiola.

The New York Times article argues that, “their swift releases underline the power of the youth-immigrant movement and their social media activism”. But slacktivism, or social media activism, such the movement on behalf of Ms. Andiola, is often highly criticized. Gabrielle Corvese, from the Brown Daily Herald, writes, “The vastness of social media makes these acts incredibly easy. You can share a picture to let your Facebook friends know you care. Twitter has a hashtag for every cause. But what is the actual effect of these actions? Though social networks allow the easy spread of information, a problem arises when the only support for a cause is a photo with a few thousand shares. While it is satisfying and convenient for the individual to show concern for an issue, those in need of support receive little benefit.”

To reply to Ms. Corvese’s statement I would argue that the Erika Andiola case clearly illustrates the power and effect of “slacktivism”. A single tweet alone may not cause change, but thousands and millions of tweets can attract enough attention and support to put pressure on our politicians to enact political and legal reform. Digital activism can more than often lead to actual, real life action.

While I take the side of these “slacktivists” arguing that any and all activism is positive there are still many, like Corvese that would not agree with me. What do you think are the positive and negative outcomes slacktivism? Do you slacktivism proves that our digital generation has become lazy? Or do you see it like me, as activism naturally transitioning alongside with our culture into the digital realm?


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