Henry Jenkins argues that the digital age has opened up a new online era of activism which offers the younger generation greater opportunities to contribute and participate in political discourse (Jenkins 2012). This is particularly evident with the rise of social media, whereby individuals can share and promote their own political, religious or social concerns to influence public opinion. This is known as ‘Clicktivism’.
The most recent example of Clicktivism is the social media campaign called ‘Bring Back Our Girls’. The campaign has been launched across multiple social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter. In one day alone, #bringbackourgirls was tweeted 412, 000 times (McPherson 2014). The hashtag originated in Nigeria, which demonstrates how ‘pervasive social media has become in developing nations amid the rapid growth of internet access and mobile devices’ (McPherson 2014). In fact, as SMH reports, there is a petition on the official White House website, calling President Barack Obama to work with Nigeria and the UN to rescue the school girls. Almost 27 000 people have signed the petition to date.
But to what extent will this campaign really lead to change? The campaign is currently at its’ peak with a huge hype around it. However, is this another Kony 2012 example where you simply hop on the bandwagon and take part in the ride while it lasts?
In my opinion, most of these social media campaigns fail because they do more to make the ‘activists’ feel good about themselves rather than actually addressing the issues. A classic example was the recent #NoMakeupSelfie Campaign. This campaign involved women taking pictures of themselves au natural in order raise awareness for cancer. While it initially started off as a campaign to raise money for cancer research, it soon became a simple opportunity for women to take the perfect filter-processed selfie in the name of ‘cancer awareness.’ What did it achieve? Nothing.
Social media has indeed transformed the medium of activism. While clicktivism can lead to greater awareness and in some instances, social change; in many instances, it becomes an activity where individuals ‘click’ their concerns away. Gaining a ‘like’ is only a passive, lazy and effortless step to supporting a cause. Clicktivism requires something more —it should be used as an ongoing campaign, to spread awareness and enlist supporters outside the realm of the internet.
Jenkins, Henry. (2012). ‘The New Political Commons’. Options Politiques <http://www.irpp.org/po/archive/nov12/jenkins.pdf>
MacPherson, R 2014, ‘Missing Nigerian girls —from #bringbackourgirls hashtag to global action’. Sydney Morning Herald, 9 May, viewed 9 May 2014 < http://www.smh.com.au/world/missing-nigerian-girls–from-bringbackourgirls-hashtag-to-global-action-20140509-zr7d0.html>.
SBS2Australia 2013, Clicktivism —Why social media is not good for charity (The Feed), video, YouTube, 18 November, viewed 9 May 2014 < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mUiF6uTjMWI>.