I’m finally starting to see photos of my Facebook friends again. There for about a week it seemed like all I saw was red boxes with pink lines where profile pictures used to be. Apparently my social media friends are quite a bunch of activists. Or are they?
My friends were participating in a form of social media-based activism that some call slacktivism.
Slacktivism is a combination of the words slacker and activism. The term is used to describe public support of a social issue or cause.
The interesting thing about slacktivism is that it has no actual impact. All slacktivism really does, according to those who call it this, is make participants feel good.
That’s right, breast cancer isn’t actually eradicated when you change your Facebook status to your bra color any more than the Supreme Court will make its decision on same-sex marriage based on your Twitter avatar.
What caught my attention about the number of altered avatars in my social media feeds was how many of them belonged to journalists. Taking a stance, however passive, on such a controversial social issue seems contradictory to remaining unbiased and uninvolved. This participation seems counter to objectivity, even if the journalist claims the account represents his/her own views. Ironically, all while listing his/her employer as a media agency and using the account to promote content.
The ethics of such social movements were the subject of a recent ethics question for my media law and ethics class. I asked students to take a stance on this question:
Should journalists participate in social media activism or what some have termed “slacktivism”?
A simple majority of the class said journalists should not participate in social movements because doing so suggests bias.
But I was surprised by the number of students who thought this type of participation on a journalist’s “personal” account was acceptable. These students typically argued that journalists are citizens too and have a right to have opinions about important issues.
I’d love to know your thoughts on this issue.