Thursday, October 9, 2008


I received a forwarded e-petition today and decided to check it out on to see if it was valid or a hoax. In the process (it was a hoax) I learned a new word/term - perhaps you are already aware of it?'s a wonderful word and fun to say! It's Slacktivism.....which appears to be a combination of the words "slacker" and "activism". I started thinking of all the ways I have participated in this over the high school I wore a bracelet with the name of a VietNam POW.....granted, I did pray for him but it was still a way of being involved w/o going into the streets to demonstrate against the war.

I also put peace signs on my VW bug - these started off innocently enough until mass marketing took over. Peace signs eventually became attached to everything from candles to earrings/ roach clip holders. (And yes, I did own those also.) And a few years back I drove around with the bumper sticker "Got Liturgy?" That one never quite caught on but my children loved to rib me about it and when I would visit any of them they would greet me with "Hey Mom! Got Liturgy?" They are easily amused.

So how about all those colored rubber wristlets people now wear? That started out well enough with the LIVESTRONG bracelets to bring awareness to fighting cancer but once companies smelled a way to sell these as an advertising tool they slipped closer to the edge of the slacktivism pool.

The most commonly seen form of slacktivism might be the colored ribbons on the backs of our cars which state "Support our Troops" - again, a great idea with an important message that exploded into a movement so large that these ribbons have lost their original meaning - now they are available in a rainbow of colors supporting every cause imaginable.

I'm not saying people shouldn't have ribbons on their cars or that we should not support our troops (though I do wonder what that really means), but I am wondering how far we have come from the example of Jesus who told us to actively take care of the poor, the widows/orphans, and the least of these. Would Jesus wear a bracelet or put a ribbon on his vehicle? Hey, that would make a good bumper sticker! Though I'm sure someone else has already marketed it.

Here is the definition from
"Slacktivism: We can't claim credit for having coined this term, nor do we know its actual origin, but we love it nonetheless. Slacktivism is the search for the ultimate feel-good that derives from having come to society's rescue without actually getting one's hands dirty, volunteering any of one's time, or opening one's wallet. It's slacktivism that prompts us to forward appeals for business cards on behalf of a dying child intent upon having his name recorded in the Guinness World Book of Records or exhortations to others to continue circulating a particular e-mail because some big company has supposedly promised that every forward will generate monies for the care of a languishing tot.

Likewise, it's slacktivism that prompts us to want to join a boycott of designated gas companies or eschew buying gasoline on a particular day rather than reduce our personal consumption of fossil fuels by driving less and taking the bus more often. Slacktivism comes in many forms, but its defining characteristic is its central theme of doing good with little or no effort on the part of the person inspired to participate, through the mechanisms of forwarding, exhorting, collecting, or e-signing. Our essay on the ineffectiveness of Internet petitions delves further into the topic."


Jayne said...

What a great term Roberta. My dad once slapped one of the yellow magnetic "Support Our Troops" ribbons on my car, which I promptly removed. Not that I don't pray for and agree with supporting our troops, but he and I have very different feelings about this "war" and besides, who knew all those magnetic things would eventually remove the paint from your car? Wonder how the slackitvism people feel about that?

We do, as a society, tend to play lip service to many things. I'd rather we put our time and money where our mouths are and not "display the badge of honor" merely to feel good.

RevDrKate said...

I, too just learned this word after reading about it in a Facebook discussion of the "Ultimate Social Experiment" (which some people think it serves as a textbook example).
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