Public Diplomacy and Global Communication 2014b

My struggle with #slacktivism

Have you already made your contribution to politics today? There is no better time to tell your politicians that human rights matter to you, as when they are fighting to represent you in Parliament, don’t you think so? A simple mouse click on Amnesty International’s website is all you need to do. No? Well then maybe you care more about health issues? Have you taken your selfie with the MacMillan Cancer Support logo and given your voice to their campaign to push for greater recognition of cancer support in Britain? Like many other organisations, in the run-up to the elections, MacMillan wants to show decision makers that there is overwhelming public interest in cancer support and that this issue in particular must be taken more seriously (Keely, 2015). Important one, isn’t it? For my part, I believe in equality and I strongly care about immigration. I therefore contribute to the heated debate about refugees and migrants in Britain, where immigration is fifth on the agenda of the issues that were mentioned most on social media in relation to the general election (Addley, 2015). I should write a personalised email to my future MP and tell him or her that the UK needs a fair immigration system (Migrant’s Rights Network, 2015). I could also sign the latest petition launched to protest against the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean region which attracted nearly 75,000 signatures within an hour of going on the Change.org website (Brhane, 2015). At the same time, lucky to be German, I have the opportunity to influence my government’s politics by joining the electronic citizen dialogue. What does ‘life quality’ mean to me, is the central question and I am happy to answer that I like to believe in equality and fair opportunities for everyone in our multicultural society (Government Source, 2015).

We are urged to participate, anytime and everywhere, in what we consider as important. We are taught that our voices matter yet what do we choose? Is not everything important; gender equality and human rights and a fair treatment of refugees and ethnic minority community groups in our society? While we get caught up thinking about what matters most, I would like to trust in politicians that use their common sense and human intellect. Why do we need to sign a petition first, to express our protest against economic relations with a state like Saudi Arabia, where women get arrested for their attempt to drive and where human rights violations take place on a daily basis? In reality, what looks like direct democracy is disillusioning. Disillusioning for those who might not be familiar with social media and ridiculous for those who actively and peacefully go to the streets and protest and show their faces; those who stand up for others, as this is the case in Brixton where gentrification is hugely damaging society. Whereas an online petition might be a second consideration for expressing discontent; standing alongside those concerned and showing our support in solidarity with others is one of our biggest strengths. This is what makes us human. I refuse to be one of those digital activists, invisible, who press a LIKE button and rebel in online forums, read Russell Brand and speak about revolution; those people who rely on the media to tell them about the negative impact of immigration when everything they share with their Turkish neighbours is the same passion for Doner Kebab.

“The positive claims for the value of the Internet offered by our contemporaries are mostly hype. Whatever the long-range value of the Net turns out to be, it won’t be the quality of information it offers, the democratic distance learning it makes possible, the presence of the Net user to all of reality, and the possibility of a new life full of meaning.”

Mr Dreyfus, philosopher at the University of California at Berkeley argues that while the web is certainly a very powerful medium, it is hobbled by the lack of physical presence of the people you interact with (Dembart, 2002). For my part, I prefer the political debate and direct interaction, talking to people and learning from them and feeling inspired and inspiring others. I want to live in a society where I can confidently turn my back on the screen and where my voice is being heard.

References

Addley, E. (2015) ‘Who is winning the election battle on social media?’ The Guardian, [online] Available at: https://www.amnesty.org.uk/actions/uk-election-2015-join-fight-rights [accessed 28/04/2015]

Amnesty (2015) ‘Election 2015: Stand for Human Rights’ [online] Available at: https://www.amnesty.org.uk/actions/uk-election-2015-join-fight-rights [accessed 28/04/2015]

Brhane, T. (2015) ‘Stop the deaths at sea now!’ [online] Available at: https://www.change.org/p/junckereu-david-cameron-stop-the-deaths-at-sea-restart-the-rescue-now-restarttherescue [accessed 28/04/15]

Bundesregierung (2015) ‘Bundesregierung diskutiert ueber Lebensqualitaet’ [online] http://www.bundesregierung.de/Content/DE/Artikel/2015/04/2015-04-13-buergerdialog-auftakt.html [accessed 28/04/15]

Dembart (2002) ‘The end user / A voice for the consumer: Computer Literacy’, The New York Times [online] Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/21/business/worldbusiness/21iht-itend21_ed3_.html [accessed 28/04/15]

Keely, L. (2015) ‘With social media charities can win the digital general election’, The Guardian [online] Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/voluntary-sector-network/2015/apr/10/with-social-media-charities-can-win-the-digital-general-election [accessed 28/04/2015]

Migrant’s Rights Network (2015) ‘Our Vote 2015 is calling for a fair approach to migration’ [online] Available at: http://www.our-vote.org/ [accessed 28/04/2015]

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3 thoughts on “My struggle with #slacktivism

  1. I really enjoyed reading your blog. You take the reader with you, and it made me question my own opinion.
    However, a few points I think are useful to double check:
    – Direct Democracy. I have a feeling you are using it wrong. Don’t you mean Indirect Democracy? Only Switzerland has a direct one in Europe (I believe), and even though you might want to use it how it sounds, it does not have the meaning you want to say (… or at least that’s what I get from it).
    – I would make a short connection to the title
    – To make it more module relevant, maybe add a sentence or two about how communication in general has changed. I have a feeling that would make it a bit more round.

    Well done!

    Like

  2. Thank you for this personal view of the political potential and pitfalls of social media in contemporary politics. It is very timely. However, I agree with Amelie’s final point that you could do more to tie your account into a discussion of one of the themes of the module. Your post is very much focused on domestic politics. If you decide to include the post in your reflective portfolio, please do more to boost the international dimension.

    Like

  3. I agree with Amelie, a very captivating blog!
    Personally, I think that clicking a ‘like’ button is a way for people to still their own conscience. This way, you feel like you’re contributing to the cause and that you make a statement. The simple way (read lazy).
    In the long-run, that doesn’t make much difference but in my opinion, a big amount of likes or names on a petition could boost the confidence and weight for the cause which people, like yourself, actively work for. Which I would say is a good thing.
    However, I do recognise that what really counts is the active action rather than a click on a thumb. Keep up the good work!

    Like

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