Don’t “Like” That

Posted: July 31, 2017 in Uncategorized

By R.C. Seely

TO PROMOTE UPCOMING BOOKS AND MY SOCIAL NETWORKS, I have gone on local radio shows to be interviewed. Mostly it’s fairly standard questions–what are your views on this or that, what made you start writing, ect.–on one occasion the host referred to me as a “political activist.”

    An activist? I didn’t think of myself as an activist, but simply one person expressing his displeasure with parts of society (and hoping others might care enough to listen). Don’t get me wrong, it’s not insulting, not at all–in fact I find the implication flattering–but how valid is it? The individual can do incredible things with the proper motivation and drive was never a problem for me. Also being admittedly stubborn and opinionated doesn’t hurt either. Mostly it’s a case of wondering if I’m doing enough to be worthy of being an “activist,” is there an accurate way to measure it? Or am I just fooling myself and falling into the trap of what social scientists call “slacktivism?” Basically, slacktivism is using social media sites such as Facebook to “like” certain topics of discussion over engaging in a more depth conversation about the subject or an action that could make a genuine difference. To be fair to the arm chair activists, it is far more convenient and even I’m guilty of it.

    Dr. David Feldman, a professor of counseling psychology, believes slacktivism is kind of a big problem. He explains that it “may satisfy an urge without motivating us to do anything real… We can march in protest, make a donation to a nonprofit organization, write a blog, sign a petition, or click thumbs up on a YouTube post, among many other efforts … but some are more constructive than others.” Not only does the form of activism and its impact have to be measured but also if it encourages further action. If Dr. Feldman is correct this type of action does not, because it offers instant gratification. It’s far too convenient. If you have to exert more effort into standing up for your believes, it tests your dedication to them.

    It’s not only Dr. Feldman who is concerned about slacktivism, the Journal of Consumer Research has been studying it as well. The results of their study was that those who did their activism in private were more likely to follow up with further action. They were less self satisfied and cared more about the cause. If it’s done in private, yes you take away your motive of self congratulations but don’t you also eliminate an example for others? Are soldiers less motivated by leaders who are not on the field with them–such as is the case in modern warfare? No, they follow the commander that is on the field though. 

    That still doesn’t adequately satisfy different personality types in the equation. Privacy is not simply a benefit for those seeking glory, but it also encourages those wishing to maintain privacy. Many criticize the social critic who lambasts them on Facebook or a blog as “civility breaking down because of anonymity.” Maybe so, but it’s nothing new. Benjamin Franklin was one of many who used a pen name to write social criticisms of politicians. Authors and writers have always protected their privacy in this manner. 

    Maybe that’s what the study’s larger results are: The way the introverted activist functions online versus the extroverted activist. The introverted gravitates towards the anonymity and is fine without the glory, they simple want to make things better; the extroverted, on the other hand, might care about the cause but wants to feed their ego. The introverted are generally more analytical driven, that’s why they are so quiet. Of course, this is just a thought and could be entirely wrong. One thing that is clear, is that this is not all that clear and deserves further study before the results are “liked.”

R.C. Seely is the founder of and ALTV. He has also written books on pop culture, his most recent Victims of White Male: How Victim Culture Victimizes Society is available on Amazon.

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