Armchair Activist (Noun): One who sits in their armchair or desk chair and blogs or posts Activists issues on Facebook without ever really doing anything about said issues or exercising any form of activism as it would require that person to actually leave the armchair. –Urban Dictionary
Most definitions of armchair activism or “slacktivism” that I have come across are not flattering or positive in any way, shape, or form. I definitely understand the criticism. People who aren’t involved, but who like to convince themselves and the online community that they are making a difference. Feeling satisfied by only posting and tweeting about a certain cause.
I might be swimming in naiveté, but I would like to argue why, at least in theory, we can’t assume that arm-chair activism is solely composed of lazy people who like to pat themselves on the back for doing virtually nothing. Those type of people exist in every social movement.
I do believe that with new and ever-growing technology our understand of social movements need to change. I’m not saying that everything about a social movement can be accomplished through a computer, but many of these people who are posting, liking, and retweeting would never had had access to the information or news story in the first place. Can we really say that if social media didn’t exist the way it does, that these people would be more ‘active’ in these causes?
Not everyone can march on Washington or occupy a local area. If they can sign a petition, or spread a news piece, they are doing something productive. Could they be doing more? Of course; in theory you could say that about any person within a movement.
People only have so much time and emotional energy to give. If they volunteer at an animal shelter and only post online about labor issues, that’s great. We can’t make a difference every waking moment within in every sector or issue.
Is there an over-inflated sense of self in some of the online activist community? Yes. Is there an over-inflated sense of self in the Occupy Movement? Yes. A group of people who only like to pat themselves on the back and puff out their chest to build online clout should never define an entire movement or activist community.
Hash-tags can’t save the world but they can make the world a little more informed and hopefully, passionate. Which, in theory, can make the world a better place.