Slacktivism with Students

Social media platforms have given users unprecedented access to a world-wide audience, at almost no cost to the user. It has given a voice to those who were previously muzzled. It has brought issues to the attention of people who would not normally know anything about it. Social media has changed how we address justice issues in our world.

With such a strong push for social justice to be taught in our classrooms, we regularly discuss how social media has opened the doors for so many to speak out. We talk about what things must have been like before these tools. We talk about if we would even know anything about these issues if it were for these social justice heroes using social media.

One thing I haven’t talked about with my students yet is slacktivism, a word I’ve had to right click and “add to dictionary” a lot over the last few days.

A recent report from UBC found that if Facebook users click “Like”, they are less likely to make a donation to a charity (LINK). A charity that has clearly caught their attention if they are clicking “Like”. The thought being that your network of friends has seen you’re supportive of a cause is just as useful as donating to the cause.

After the attacks in Paris this past year, Facebook made it even easier to support the cause, by just clicking a button to overlay a flag on your profile picture. You don’t even need to open Photoshop or Paint to do this yourself now. Click. Done. Was there any suggestion of what you can do to help others? Not that I saw. Was almost every Facebook friend covered in a French flag? You bet.

aaanew_facebook_3501243bPhoto: Facebook

I think the problem in a lot of cases is just that we want others to be aware that we are aware. It’s difficult to know how you can contribute to a lot of social justice causes online and there isn’t a lot of information. It’s impossible to engage with all of them. It’s easy to look like you are.

There is a lot of debate about whether or not slacktivism is a good thing. Some find it not just useless, but counterproductive. Others say it is changing the world. Personally, I think both sides make solid points and have challenged me to rethink my interactions with activism online. As a classroom teacher, I’m more interested in how slacktivism is seen by my students. Is it their normal? Are they conscious of it, and changing their behaviour because of it? My students have been around a digital world their entire lives, born right around the time I first use the internet myself.

Do they see “liking” something just as valuable as going out and donating time or volunteering to help a cause? The big questions, the ones I will pose to my own students when we talk social justice and slacktivism next, are:

  • Is clicking Like better than no support at all?
  • Are we so conditioned with all the causes online that we don’t take them all so seriously?
  • Is it even possible to fully engage in all the causes we see?
  • What can we do make our presence online more meaningful?
  • When is it necessary to take activism offline? Or, is it?

These should prove to make for an interesting conversation with my current middle years students.

I think it’s important that we make our students aware that their actions online can impact their world online. It’s easy to click Like, feel good, and move on. I’m guilty of doing so in the past and will probably do it many more times with causes I support. But, now that I’m more aware of slacktivism, I’ll start looking out for opportunities to engage further with the causes – online or offline. I hope to get my students to the same place.

Image from Flickr: Anti Government Protest (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Unbelievable Social Media Count

I stumbled across this thanks to one of my mentoring teachers on Twitter, Michael Kaechele.  You can find the original post by Gary Hayes on his blog, here.  Using statistics he found across the web, this counter calculates how many social media events have happened.  It figures out how many blog posts have been made, how many tweets tweeted, how many YouTube videos watched, and it goes on and on.  Just check it out below (may not show in Google Reader).

I was really surprised by how many YouTube videos have been watched.  It’s an enormous amount!  Since I started creating this blog post, 114 seconds ago (1:54 mins), 1314812s videos have been watched (the numbers will be different for you since the count starts once you load this page).  I will never come close to watching this in my entire life!  Now at 246 seconds (4:06 mins) there has been $177359 made from global media messaging and data.  That is a lot of money in a short amount of time.

Gary also lists these stats on his page. I’ve reposted them in this post, you can see them here.

  • 20 hours of video uploaded every minute onto YouTube (source YouTube blog Aug 09)
  • Facebook 600k new members per day, and photos, videos per month, 700mill & 4 mill respectively (source Inside Facebook Feb 09)
  • Twitter 18 million new users per year & 4 million tweets sent daily (source TechCrunch Apr 09)
  • iPolicy UK – SMS messaging has a bright future (Aug 09)
  • 900 000 blogs posts put up every day (source Technorati State of the Blogosphere 2008)
  • YouTube daily, 96 million videos watched, $1mill bandwidth costs (source Comscore Jul 06 !)
  • UPDATE: YouTube 1Billion watched per day SMH (2009)- counter updated!
  • Second Life 250k virtual goods made daily, text messages 1250 per second (source Linden Lab release Sep 09)
  • Money – $5.5 billion on virtual goods (casual & game worlds) even Facebooks gifts make $70 million annually (source Viximo Aug 09)
  • Flickr has 73 million visitors a month who upload 700 million photos (source Yahoo Mar 09)
  • Mobile social network subscribers – 92.5 million at the end of 2008, by end of 2013 rising to between 641.6-873.1 million or 132 mill annually (source Informa PDF)
  • SMS – Over 2.3 trillion messages will be sent across major markets worldwide in 2008 (source Everysingleoneofus sms statistics)

These stats really blow my mind.  I knew social media was big, just not this big.  These numbers really put into perspective how big social media really is and how much it is part of our world.