Activism or Slacktivism? The Potential and Pitfalls of Social Media in Contemporary Student Activism

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The emergence of social media has greatly influenced 21st-century student activism. It has also given rise to the birth of “slacktivism,” an online form of self-aggrandizing, politically ineffective activism. This theoretical article delves into the conceptualizations of what constitutes student activism versus slacktivism in a digital age. While there are distinctions between the 2, we highlight how most discussions of activism describe how activism is done as opposed to what it is. Within this context, we offer 10 theoretical underpinnings of activism and slacktivism to serve as conceptual points of self-reflection that student activists can use in order to explore whether or not they are truly engaging in activism. This examination, we argue, is critically important as the distinction between slacktivism and activism becomes increasingly muddied. For student activism to realize its democratic and developmental potential, students need to be clear about whether they are engaging in activism or slacktivism.

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