Slacktivism is a term that is increasingly used to deride people whose only contribution to social change are their tweets and social media posts. It is often argued that passive online activists in comparison to people who take part in protests IRL, make no real contribution to the issues.
However, a new study led by Sandra González-Bailón, indicates the opposite. The study provided consistent evidence that, slacktivists (or peripheral participants, as they were referred to in the study) are critical in increasing the reach of protest messages and generating online content at levels that are comparable to core participants.
The researchers studied tens of millions of tweets about specific protests, separated the tweets that came from core participants, using location data and examined the impact of the peripheral participants. This indicated that, the tweets that came from protesters were greatly amplified those posting from home which effectively boosts the efforts of protesters.
Core participants need to hear about protests to make the decision to join and without the contribution of these internet activists, a lot of people wouldn’t get enough information about protests or causes to join in. Posting from home does not put anyone danger but it helps shine light on those who are potentially in danger.
The conclusion of the study was that; peripheral participants should be seen less as slacktivists and more as an integral component to understanding why protests go big.