Slacktivism (sometimes slactivism or slackervism) is a term formed out of the words slacker and activism. The word is usually considered a pejorative term that describes “feel-good” measures, in support of an issue or social cause, that have little or no practical effect other than to make the person doing it feel satisfaction. The acts tend to require minimal personal effort from the slacktivist.[1]

I am so sick and tired of seeing petitions for this and that. Petitions have never really been effective – even back in the days where people went door to door and got real signatures. The only kind of petitions that have any weight in our political system are ones that have terms of reference defined in law. For example, Bill Van Der Zalm’s petition to get the HST overturned. In this case, legislation sets out how the signatures must be gathered[2], and the petition must be verified.

Signing petitions because you are upset at how sled dogs are treated or you want a community garden on the front of the provincial legislature do nothing and mean nothing. The only thing they do is make people sitting at their computers feel like they are engaged in their society and that by clicking and typing their name in that they made a difference. What really gets me is when Canadians start promoting American petitions like ones asking for universal healthcare. How the signers in Canada can think this will have any effect in the US.

The other, closely related, annoyance is thinks like the Kony2012 event of the past 10 days or so. Ostensibly it sounded like a great idea: fining Joseph Kony who is most certainly guilty of crimes against humanity. His recruitment of children for the LRA is so outrageous it almost defies description. Like willing little sheep, millions of people posted the video on facebook, twitter and other social networking sites. All the while doing this with almost zero critical thought. We are so keen to think that these meaningless actions will get a result that we just click the buttons.

In the internet age, critical thinking is crucial. We cannot just blindly follow what our friends, peers and family members are doing. We must analyze and come to our own decisions. Blindly sharing allows unworthy campaigns to go viral. Groups who want to impact public opinion know exactly how to do it. A video or campaign framed with outlandish statements and a call to arms. It really is that easy. Welcome to the age of Slacktivism.

[2] Online is not acceptable.