We Need Activism Not Slacktivism

From the Parkland shooting to Trump’s impeachment, we all remember that time when we opened up Instagram and scrolled through endless stories of seemingly meaningless reposts about social issues. Many of us, myself included, have even found ourselves posting and sharing this information. We believe our online activism is very impactful, when, in fact, it is just another example of the larger issue of slacktivism

This term, combining ‘slacker’ and ‘activism,’ refers to those whose activism goes only as far as sharing hashtags, signing petitions or supporting social issues with minimal effort. 

While this type of activism is good in theory, bold change will not come from the click of a button. From climate change and gun violence to mental health, University Prep students love to discuss social issues. Yet most students are unable or unwilling to take the next step from sympathy to action. 

When Australia was burning, people were quick to turn to social media to repost pictures of injured koalas and vague graphics. Some went as far as to repost accounts claiming they helped plant trees.

To fight real social injustice and the systems of oppression that perpetuate crises like Australia’s bushfires, we must look beyond the screens of our iPhones. We need to get our hands dirty, put our money where our mouths are and show up for the causes we claim to support. 

Photo: Parisa Harvey
Students and adult activists strike for action on climate change at Cal Anderson Park on Sept. 20, 2019. School striking and demanding bold system change is what will save our future — not Instagram reposts.

There are more powerful ways to channel your activism than sharing hashtags. Strike, march, protest and keep yourself informed. Most importantly, if you’re 18, vote to support the issues you care about.

This online and social media activism is also a matter of privilege. Slacktivism is an easy alternative for those whose race, gender, sexuality or socioeconomic status protect them from these issues. Thus, this minimal activism becomes an issue of intersectionality, yet also an opportunity for allies, advocates and accomplices to show up. 

When it comes to climate striking or engaging in climate activism, our school is unique in giving students planned absences. Seattle Public Schools and many schools across the nation do not and go as far as to punish students for their engagement. Nevertheless, these students continue to show up, cheer the loudest and let their voices be heard, despite the possible consequences. 

In a school as rigorous and competitive as UPrep, finding time to balance schoolwork, sports, extracurriculars and activism can be difficult. But missing a math test or one day of school is not the end of the world. Sometimes we need to miss our lessons to teach our government and leaders one.