The Slacktivist challenges barriers to activism
Last June, senior Sudeeksha Yadav and her brother created @theslacktivists, an Instagram page dedicated to “slacktivism”. The page, in conjunction with its corresponding website and Twitter page, provides concise informational articles about injustices on the international, national, and local levels, as well as suggestions and resources for getting involved.
“Slacktivism”, used as a derogatory term by the activist community, refers primarily to social media activism, where many activism-dedicated accounts post about social justice and many others simply absorb information from other people’s feeds. Because social media enables a lack of time-consuming involvement in activist causes, some traditional activists view it as a lazy, half-baked form of activism—cue the term “slacktivist”.
Yadav took issue with the scorn activism on social media typically receives, even writing her junior research paper about the importance of social media activism. She and her brother, Utkarsh Yadav, a graduate of the class of 2016, created @theslacktivists—found at the URL theslacktivist.co—as a rebuke of the philosophy of indignant “conventional” activists.
Yadav describes conventional activism as the high-profile activities typically associated with exercising one’s constitutional and democratic rights: protests, marches, voting, and attending town halls. However, all of those activities involve taking time off work or school and require the ability to transport oneself to a designated location.
“Conventional activism excludes a lot of people, so that’s why when I was doing research about social media activism I thought that it was a lot more inclusive,” Yadav said. “If you look at just Jesuit, you have at least 75% of the student body being excluded from conventional activism just because they can’t vote. I saw an entire generation of potential activists who feel disenfranchised by the type of activism they’re exposed to.”
Yadav emphasizes that while the actions associated with “slacktivism”—reading about issues on social media, changing a profile picture, sharing information to one’s following base—may appear “easier”, their ability to catalyze change should not be disregarded. Mass education about crises and injustices creates a domino effect: Internet campaigns gain enough traction to emphasize an issue in traditional media, nonprofits receive an influx of donations, and community or world leaders are prompted to put pressure on perpetrators of injustice or reform their own misconduct.
While the contributions of each social media activist may be dwarfed by the amount of engagement conventional activism necessitates, Yadav saw the creation of The Slacktivist as a way to contribute to social media’s domino effect by maximizing awareness and finding accessible methods of contribution for young people.
Driven by a desire to objectively convey information while also personalizing major issues and encouraging high schoolers to get involved themselves, Yadav’s process for choosing what to write about is twofold. While she consults traditional news sources like The New York Times, she also consults Twitter. Twitter often contains personal perspectives from those witnessing injustices and allows her to broadcast issues that aren’t emphasized by major media outlets.
“The way news is presented makes issues feel even farther away than they are,” Yadav said. “I’m looking for personal voices from people who are actually there. They do have their own biases because they’re there, but it’s different because they have their own individual experiences as opposed to news companies with an agenda.”
The Slacktivist website is organized so readers can easily access information on global or local social justice issues. Local articles include information on ICE raids, protests, and other significant events in the Portland area. Global articles emphasize unjust situations in various countries, such as protests in Hong Kong or the takeover of Kashmir by the Indian government.
Meanwhile, Instagram and Twitter often serve as a forum to provide succinct versions of and links to their informational articles and op-eds. Yadav and her brother also take advantage of retweeting and post sharing to highlight breaking news for their followers.
With its emphasis on local and global issues, The Slacktivist has gained traction not only among Jesuit students, but among other Portland-area high schoolers as well. Many have responded positively to the accessibility that the Instagram page offers for gaining nuanced and factual insight into social injustice.
“I think it’s really cool that [longer articles] can come to a platform that I myself use a lot,” senior Julie Nguyen said. “You can’t always be trustful of things on social media, but I know Sudeeksha and I’m sure that her and her brother are researching as much as they can.”
The Slacktivist garnered additional publicity when activist and actress Jameela Jamil retweeted one of The Slacktivist’s articles on the crisis in Kashmir, praising The Slacktivist for its unbiased reporting and calling Yadav “a brilliant young woman”.
Though The Slacktivist serves primarily as an outlet to become informed on social justice issues, it still embraces other forms of activism. Yadav frequently writes about easy and accessible ways for teenagers to become more involved activists.
“The Slacktivist posted about ways to help children suffering at the border, and there were tips to call your representatives, post on social media, donate, and things like that, so I called my representatives, “ senior Ria Debnath said. “Little things like that can actually have an effect.”