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Internet activists capable of getting the word out

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Unless you don’t use Facebook, or you have been living under a rock for the past week, you have probably seen in your news feed that many profile pictures are now equal signs.

Internet social activism is a growing trend that you can advocate with the press of a button — and it keeps hitting social media users with different campaigns. The most recent one before the current campaign for marriage equality was Kony 2012.

Obviously, there are many criticisms to this kind of activism, the most germane being that it doesn’t do anything to further a cause. Liking a Facebook post and changing your profile picture does not help the Supreme Court decide anything in the coming months, just as changing your profile picture to feature Kony last April did not end up really helping the people of Uganda.

But the silver lining to this — the good side to what is almost affectionately called slacktivism, a combination of “slacker” and “activism”, — is that it gets the word out.

Internet activism makes people aware of issues and can inform others about the issue. People who had no idea about Kony but were truly interested could do research and help provide the Ugandans with supplies they needed. On the other hand, even if those people did not end up giving to the cause, at least they were educated about the issue from seeing the mass of changed profile pictures.

Regarding marriage equality, the changed profile pictures, the Human Rights Campaign’s logo, creates kinship against the wave of opposition to the repeals of Proposition 8 and DOMA. While there are issues of making the campaign an “Allies” fight as opposed to LGBTQ individuals addressing their own conflict, seeing the mass of equal signs would surely comfort someone struggling with his or her sexual identity.

Research also shows that slacktivists are not necessarily slackers. A 2010 survey by TNS Global suggests Internet slacktivists are just as likely to donate their money to a cause as non-slacktivists, and even twice as likely to volunteer. They are also more likely to recruit people to a cause, request donations, and sign petitions that end up changing politicians’ positions. The bottom line is that people’s activities are not defined by their online activity.

Even if it might not be the best way to help win any legal or financial battles, slacktivism can be a key to garnering support and promoting discussions of controversial issues.

This type of activism helps fight the social battles — and win them.