#thattech Week 7–Likes Don’t Raise Money, Save Lives or Change the World

The era in which Net Geners have grown up has been a time period in which civil activism is not as prominent as it has been in other decades.  I believe Net Geners, as non-activists, aren’t necessarily the exception but more the rule.  The two interviews I conducted backed up my notion as both interviewees turned out to be more slacktivists if anything at all.  (Slacktivist meaning one who is not constantly involved in the action part of activism.)  John Palfrey and Urs Gasser mention “what the Net provides is an increasingly useful, attractive platform for those who are predisposed to be active in civic life” (Palfrey & Gasser, 2010).  I believe activism may be sparked by not only your background but the people you surround yourself with and are influenced by as well as the lifestyle, community and location where you live.  Don Tapscott also notes, “Between elections, there is no real engagement by the citizens in the important decisions that affect their lives” (Tapscott, 2008).

It was apparent my two interviewees are not consistently engaged in any sort of civic activity or service. The extent of their activism is limited to clicks on the internet entailing things such as a “like” on Facebook or posting a comment on a website.  I personally feel you can’t really call this activism.  Despite my opinion, they both expressed being an “activist” if an issue personally affected them and compelled them to give their whole-hearted support.

Kevin Lewis, Kurt Gray, and Jens Meierhenrich conducted a study on digital-age action in regards to the Save Darfur Cause on Facebook which had 1.2 million members.  They concluded:

While both donation and recruitment behavior are socially patterned, the vast majority of Cause members recruited no one else into the Cause and contributed no money to it — suggesting that in the case of the Save Darfur campaign, Facebook conjured an illusion of activism rather than facilitating the real thing (Lewis, Gray, & Meierhenrich, 2014).

This further reiterates that many people’s level of activism might be limited to simple clicks online rather real action or raising money.

According to Reputation Inc., author Laura Brummer notes, “The implication is that the gap needs to be bridged between click and action, slacktivism and actual passion” (Brummer, n.d.).  Technology has created an immense platform to help convert slacktivists into activists if they choose to do so.  Palfrey and Gasser note, “Affordable Internet technology and highly interactive, easy-to-use applications have enabled individuals to become active users and participants in public conversations” (Palfrey & Gasser, 2010).  This ties into what Brian Honigman stated in his Forbes article, “Social media created an enormous opportunity for converting more folks to higher levels of engagement” (Honigman, 2014).

Although the tools now exist, I don’t think the majority of the Net Geners I know are chomping at the bit to get involved or are on a plot to change the world as we speak.  However, I do believe technology has created an instrument for our students to get their feet wet and discover what role they want to play in activism online or offline.  As Palfrey and Gasser point out, “There are seeds of change that ought to be nourished” (Palfrey & Gasser, 2010).  We as educators can help nourish these by promoting our students to explore topics they are passionate about that might spur activism.  And if the seeds blossom, students need to know the available tools but at the same time be cognizant of the nature and ethics of the internet.  The internet is an extraordinary tool, but similar to research, you must be cautious of the source of information.



Brummer, L. (n.d.). Online Activists: Revolution or Click-Illusion? Retrieved fromhttp://www.reputation-inc.com/our-thinking/online-activists-revolution-or-click-illusion  on June 25, 2014.

Honigman, B. (2014). How Tumblr Is Changing Online Activism. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/citi/2014/02/18/how-tumblr-is-changing-online-activism/ on June 25, 2014.

Lewis, K., Gray, K., & Meierhenrich, J. (2014). The Structure of Online Activism. Retrieved from http://www.mpmlab.org/Online%20Activism.pdf on June 25, 2014.

Palfrey, J., & Gasser, U. (2010). Born Digital : Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Tapscott, D. (2008). Grown up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World. New York: McGraw-Hill.


4 thoughts on “#thattech Week 7–Likes Don’t Raise Money, Save Lives or Change the World

  1. Slacktivists? That’s a new term to add to my vocabulary. I had to laugh when I read that. Thanks for the chuckle.

    I believe you are correct when you say activism is sparked by a persons background and surroundings. The students I talked with are prime examples. One of them is very involved in civic matters but so are his friends and his family. The other student had little interest in civic involvement just like his parents. One of the articles I referenced this week discussed students involvement in activism. It made an interesting point about how students today pay more attention to businesses who support different causes. When a business supports something that students are interested in, kids are more apt to support them. The opposite also holds true. The internet makes it easy to see where corporations spend their money which, in turn, makes it easy for people to form or sever an allegiance. Social media helps spread the news which can encourage like-minded individuals to do the same. Although this may be a fairly small scale example, it is still activism. Like you said, it’s a way for kids to get their feet wet.

  2. I used to sign a fair amount of online petitions. Then I kept getting emails from those organizations to sign yet more petitions. When there are thousands of these going around every day, does my click matter?
    I doubt it.
    You are right, clicks don’t create change. But I also think that a lot of our change is happening below the surface. People are simply getting informed and trying to create change by voting. It’s certainly not the 60s, but at least we don’t have to worry about riots and revolutions (exciting as they may seem, I think they’d be pretty scary).
    As for getting the right info, I must say that it is frustrating being a social studies teacher during an election year. I end up having to spend a whole lot of time explaining the truth when students come in repeating something they heard on a commercial.

    • Jon–I would agree about change happening below the surface. It’s a tough sell to get students to become activists when they don’t see immediate change but have to trust it is indeed happening. I think this is another reason why we need to continue modeling civic engagement to encourage our students to get more involved or stay active if they are already supporting a cause. If they don’t see us modeling this behavior, they certainly won’t be as inclined to do it themselves.

  3. Social media has made it easier to connect, but like you stated just liking something on Facebook, doesn’t make us activists. Maybe we will get there. The video I shared in my blog (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vrczoLm7Es) Don Tapscott mentions he thinks that social media will help us give politicians ideas on what we want and what we don’t want, similar to how some companies are using social media to stay connected to their customers. Maybe eventually we will get there with the help of social media or some other tech tool.

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