In recent years, we’ve seen the rise of a new Internet-based form of political activism: it’s been dubbed slacktivism.
Slacktivism is when we show our support for something online, without actually doing anything in the real world.
It includes all those countless Likes and Shares and online petitions signed in the name of various causes.
Is slacktivism really a form of political activism at all?
People are becoming more aware, yes – but are they becoming more involved?
There is no saying how many people The Human, Earth Project has reached via its website, mailing list, videos and social media.
At times, it has reached over a hundred thousand people in a single day, with hundreds upon hundreds of Likes and Shares.
In terms of raising awareness of human trafficking, that’s great.
What does it mean for my work?
It means a whole lot of moral support, and very little funding to get the job done.
Of all those thousands, a handful might sign up to my blog. One or two might send a few dollars.
The rest will disappear just as quickly as they came, their Likes and Shares swallowed up in the black hole of the Internet.
What does all that moral support actually achieve?
Real-world problems can only be solved in the real world.
No matter how many Likes or Shares you get, you still need the activist out there doing real work, and that activist needs real-world support to continue the work.
A pat on the back is nice, but not when you need a helping hand.
Some attack slacktivism. Others defend it.
It seems reasonable to see it as a sort of numbers game.
The slacktivist might think, ‘I won’t support this, but if I share it, maybe someone else will.’
And maybe they will.
When you get out into the real world and try to make a real difference, though, you quickly learn that the numbers are stacked against you.
One of the last conversations I had with Chris Tenz was about slacktivism.
‘Every f**king hero and activist just becomes a meme, at best,’ Chris said. ‘I’m sick of listening to people complain about things that they don’t try to change at all.’
It can be difficult at times not to be cynical about it.
Ultimately, I see it as a sort of symbiosis.
There are those with day jobs, who wish they could do something to change the world.
And there are those who give up their jobs to go out there and do it.
The first group gives moral and financial support to the second group.
The second group gives hope and inspiration to the first group – and if they succeed in their work, they give us all a better world to live in.
At least, I’d like to believe it works that way.
While all of those Likes might appear equal in the great democratic republic of Facebook, you soon learn to recognise different types of supporters.
There are those who will Like and Share, and that’s all they’ll ever do.
There are those who will disappear at the first mention of money.
There are those who make big promises, then fade out quietly.
Then there are those who simply act, without a word.
And there are those who act – and keep acting.
Sometimes, you just have to set your expectations low, and keep grinding away at the impossible.
And there are other times when you find youself very pleasantly surprised – it has happened to me twice in the past two days.
Belinda Warfield signed up to my blog last year.
She sent me a message of support once – and then she began sending money.
This week, Belinda has contributed for the third time in six months.
It’s impossible, of course, to complete a feature-length film without money – but it’s not just about the money.
It’s about knowing that, somewhere out there, my work is having a real effect on someone’s life, and that that person cares enough to help me continue.
Then this afternoon, on a quick jaunt through the endless wastes of Facebook, I discovered that Suzie Hanlan, a Canadian friend of mine, is organising ‘a donation based yoga practice in support of The Human, Earth Project‘.
That means a lot to me.
Thank you, Belinda, and thank you, Suzie.
This week I’ve been going over the accounts, and preparing a fundraising campaign to finish Sisters For Sale.
It’s something I’ve delayed as long as possible, because there are few things in the world that make me feel worse.
Giving up a steady source of income and all my savings was difficult, but I did it.
Working without reward, even risking my life for that work, hasn’t always been easy.
But to go out begging just to continue that work literally makes me sick to my stomach.
That’s no exaggeration – the very thought of it makes me react physically.
But if that’s what I have to do, then I’ll do it.
If you can help me finish this work, please do.