“A Nation of Likers”: An Affirmative Post

Unsurprisingly, there are many articles on the internet claiming that clicktivism doesn’t create real life change. One of the many articles we read is an opinion piece by Bruce Hartford from Huffington Post. In the lengthy article, Hartford claims that, “As someone who comes out of the civil rights and trade union traditions I believe that reporting back to your activists and members is an essential requirement for building and maintaining long-term trust and commitment. And while I support the clicktivism model and will continue to be a clicktivist myself, it seems to me that there are some inherent weaknesses in this form of social activism we should think about,” (Hartford). This statement backs up exactly what we are arguing for with our blog. Clicktivism is something that can help shed light on issues and should be something we can all take part in, but overall, its effects in actual real life change are minimal and incomparable. It is our duty as civilians to stand up and make change happen, rather than sitting behind a computer screen anonymously ‘liking’ charity pages.

In another article from heraldson.com, Johanna Leggat explains to her readers that, “We are a nation of likers, sharers and online tut-tutters. We are nothing, if not, prolific in our activism through the self conscious prism of social media. And, yet, for many of us there is a gulf between our impassioned online response to injustice and our willingness to do anything about them,” (Leggat). Throughout the entirety of the article, she goes on to explain that we mostly sit around on computers clicking like or share and ultimately end up feeling like we’ve done something. Legget exclaims that this is not change and should not be mistaken for it. Additionally, Legget included a 2013 study from the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business, which says, “would-be donors [neglect] to give money or time to charities after showing support for the cause on social media,” (Legget). Yet again confirming the idea that most people will support a charity online but rarely ever actually do something in real life about the cause. Again, this relates exactly to our point. We feel that clicktivism is not enough to create real change! We must get off the sofa, put away the electronics, and make real, visible change in the world.

Having Achieved Widespread Awareness, Whats Next?: An Affirmative Post

In April of 2014, tragedy struck when 276 schoolgirls were abducted from their dormitory by the terrorist group Boko Haram in the village of Chibok located in Northern Nigeria.  Nigerians grew outraged and this horrible story began tugging on the heartstrings of the world which lead to the emergence of the hashtag #bringbackourgirls. It took less than three weeks for this hashtag to be used over one million times on various social media platforms.  The First Lady at the time, Michelle Obama, also voiced her concern by sharing a selfie where she was holding a sign reading #bringourgirlsback.  Sadly, the world joining hand-in-hand to bring these girls back grew unsuccessful as a majority of these girls are still missing. This post will discuss two articles that support our blog’s stance on clicktivism.

Maeve Shearlaw, writer for theguardian.com, wrote an article titled “Did the #bringbackourgirls make a difference in Nigeria?” which provided a critical analysis of how clicktivism affected this tragic story. Shearlaw defined clicktivism as “the lure of supporting a campaign perceived to be in vogue – before swiftly moving on to the next.”  The article then argued that this is exactly what western supporters grew guilty of during the #bringbackourgirls campaign and that the efforts made could have been better placed to support journalists and campaigners looking to hold the Nigerian government to account.  The conclusion this article presented is that while the clicktivism is beneficial, “the girls are still missing…that is the ultimate measure of success and we are not there yet.”

The second article this post will unfold was writing by the Huffington Post, titled “One Year Later, #bringbackourgirls Shows the Limits of Clicktivism.”  Craig Kielburger, writer of this piece, discussed the aftermath of this clicktivism campaign one year later and sadly reported that only 57 of the 270 captured girls were able to escape.  The many issues pertaining to clicktivism were discussed throughout this article.  It is argued that “organizations and activists must learn it is not enough to simply launch a hashtag or video meme and hope it goes viral.”

Both of these articles, as well as our blogs stance, agree on the benefits that clicktivism can bring to a social media campaign.  These articles also argue that clicktivism is simply not enough to create real world change.  Social media is an extremely powerful and possibly necessary tool for connecting causes with those who support them.  Achieving widespread awareness is a remarkable starting place for any campaign but online clicktivism must be backed with real world activism in order to be successful.

Lack of Leadership and Tangible Change: An Affirmative View

The #Kony2012 campaign was released by Invisible Children in early March of 2012. #Kony2012 was a strategically thought out operation using various forms of promotions and persuasive actions. The campaign used a combination of many visuals such as images, logos, text, and videos in attempt to rewrite present-day strategies for engendering activism through social media, also known as, clicktivism. This post looks at two different articles that support our claim that clicktivism is only the beginning and more needs to be done for real change to occur.

While there were cons of #Kony2012, there were some pros that highlighted the initial benefits clicktivism can have on a campaign. An article on nj.com, “Invisible Children’s Kony 2012 campaign has pros, but also cons” by Carly Rothman, discusses some of these pros. Rothman went into detail about the key goals of KONY2012 being that it was an operation to put pressure on the American government to keep a small U.S. military presence on the ground Uganda to advise local leaders. The campaign was centered on a social media strategy built upon a viral video “that lays out the programs roots and visions”. This is a prime example exemplifying the benefits that social networking can bring to a situation. Within days of this video being launched it received nearly ten million views and celebrity endorsements from people like Justin Bieber and Oprah. The #Kony2012 campaign successfully showed the potential benefits clicktivism can have on an issue. The positive of all of this is the simple fact that spreading ideas is a good way to initiate the conversation of change but not necessarily create a tangible change itself.

Cons that have been made up over #Kony2012 include their corporate structure, their investment in the Ugandan army and their sanguinary mission to bring Joseph Kony to justice. #Kony2012’s investment in the Ugandan army was very troublesome. The accounts that they made that took over YouTube and Twitter were very troublesome as well. They created a culture of looting, exploitation and rape occurring on the frontlines of the army’s activities, both in their expeditionary work in the Central African Republic and their supposed protective work of the internally displaced refugee camps in Northern Uganda (Currie). This was discussed in an article on uniter.ca titled, “The Pros and Cons of KONY 2012” by Steve Currie in 2012. The issue in organizational structure this article discussed tends to be the demise of many clicktivism campaigns. There is no hierarchy of power in the social media world which is one major reason these campaigns don’t lead into tangible change in the world. The lack of hierarchical power prevents tangible change because there is no clear organization and relentless push for change. The combination of these two articles depicted how social media can create a rise in awareness of an issue but struggle to do anything of it rather accurately. It is possible that in the future of clicktivism we will see a rise in leadership or figure heads attached to these campaigns for it to begin supporting real activism.

“Checking in at Standing Rock on Facebook isn’t helpful”: An Affirmative View

October 31, 2016 there was a mass number of Facebook check-ins to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota. However, the majority of those who checked in were not physically present. This action was done in the hopes of throwing off law enforcement tracking individuals’ locations based off of social media. Despite the awareness the check-ins spread, the clicktivism action was not truly helpful or enough.

standing rock

A Mic article believes, “clicking a few buttons on Facebook just isn’t enough to make an impact”. The article explains that Standing Rock protesters appreciated the support shown online but there is no direct evidence proving that it was of any help. Additionally, the Morton County Sheriff’s Department stated that it does not follow Facebook check-ins which undermines the initial intended purpose.

Clicktivism is an easy way for individuals who may not be able to be physically present due to distance and time barriers to be virtually present. The act shows solidarity from those who checked-in to Standing Rock but it ends there.

If someone is not near North Dakota, they can be a more active participant after learning about the protest through clicktivism by donating to the cause and signing a petition without having to travel great distances.

The article shares an email from Sacred Stone Camp that asserts the “Facebook Check In” did not originate from them and lists various ways they hope to encourage people to take physical action. Some of the suggestions are, but not limited to: demanding banks to divest, police enforcement to withdraw, construction to halt, connecting with indigenous and environmental struggles in your own bioregion, and investigating personal relationships to fossil fuel consumption. These suggestions ultimately make a bigger impact on the reservation.

Immediately the day after the initial check-ins, November 1, more than 1 million people “checked in” to Standing Rock. It is important to not undermine the benefit that the Facebook Check-In was for Sacred Stone Camp in order to have a greater voice and spread of information within the public. Clicktivism created a greater platform to spread the message but it must not stop there. The goal is not to spread awareness but to elicit change and stop construction on the reservation.