Tragedy in Charleston, South Carolina: Is Slacktivism Really a Bad Thing? | npENGAGE

Tragedy in Charleston, South Carolina: Is Slacktivism Really a Bad Thing?

By on Aug 7, 2015


Charleston, SC

I had only lived in Charleston, SC three short weeks before the city I was coming to know and love was turned upside down. Tragedy struck  this town when Dylann Roof entered the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on a quiet Wednesday night and took nine innocent lives.

But what happened next was truly inspiring—the way the people of this city came together.

I felt a deep connection to the community, as though I was a part of something larger than myself. Immediately, funds were created and services were held. Individuals traveled countless miles to show their respect and offer their condolences. But, services and fundraising were not the only methods used to create awareness. The entire nation tuned in as news of the event made front page headlines on sites such as CNN and ABC. Articles started trending. Celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres and Taylor Swift were tweeting. #prayforCharleston and #IamAME were going viral. Everyone was talking.

This is what we often refer to as slacktivism: engaging in a cause over social media but not actively participating in that cause. And it’s often associated with millennials.

Slacktivism is a portmanteau of the words slacker and activism. The word is usually considered a pejorative term that describes “feel-good” measures, in support of an issue or social cause, that have little physical or practical effect, other than to make the person doing it feel satisfied that they have contributed. The underlying assumption being promoted by the term is that these low-cost efforts substitute for more substantive actions rather than supplementing them.”

We often frown upon the act of slacktivism because although awareness is being created, individuals are not actively making a difference, whether it be through volunteer work or donation.

But, is slacktivism really a bad thing?

Sure, the individuals who shared articles, tweeted, and expressed their condolences online may not have  physically attended services in Charleston or made financial contributions, but does that mean that their actions didn’t have a positive impact?

Although some individuals speak negatively of the act, there are some who praise the practice. Abby Rosmarin from the Huffington Post applauds the use of slacktivism.

I will gladly take a trend where people can come together for something positive. I don’t care how much it dips into the “slacktivism” category.

I think Abby’s right—there are positive effects to slacktivism.

1. Slacktivism Generates a Community of Supporters

What I appreciate most about the act of slacktivism is not just the awareness it can bring to a cause but how it can transform discussions. I saw this happen on both a local and a national scale when the immense amount of support, love and encouragement began flooding this city from all over. It’s that kind of support that makes it possible for us all to band together, to address even the ugliest of issues, like hate.

As nonprofit professionals, you know how impactful a loyal group of supporters can be to the advancement of your cause. Blackbaud’s Andy Welkley addresses the importance in his article, stating that “the future success of your nonprofit will be fueled by the relationships you build and stories you tell. Your supporters—influencers, event participants, donors, volunteers and advocates— are your most valuable storytellers. It’s your job to educate and train your supporters and to provide platforms and opportunities that empower them to speak on your behalf.”

2. Slacktivism Promotes Activism

By  creating awareness through social media, action is taken and solutions are created in ways that the “slacktivist” could never have built alone.

Even though these select individuals are not making donations of time, money or talent, their ‘slacktivism’ can inspire others to participate in ‘activism’.

Some individuals who see the articles and tweets will be inclined to participate in creating solutions. And if the individuals had not seen the social buzz and become aware of the cause, they would not have been inspired to act.

Think about it,

Don’t you want awareness for your mission to spread like wildfire?

Don’t you want to create a community of motivated and inspired supporters?

Don’t you want to start discussions that activate change?

I encourage you to embrace slacktivism. View it as a platform to share your stories, start conversations, build relationships and promote your cause.

After all, the awareness generated through slacktivism may be the door to activism.


For the summer, Kaley is residing in Charleston, SC where she is working as a Marketing Intern for Blackbaud. She is given the opportunity to work alongside multiple directors within the department, learning the ins and outs of marketing. Kaley is excited to take what she has learned from her experience at Blackbaud when she heads back to Florida in the fall to finish up her last year at Florida State University in Tallahassee. There she is working towards a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing with a major in Professional Sales. For the fall semester, Kaley is honored to be selected as one of fourteen for Florida State’s Sales Team. She will be representing Florida State’s Sales Program as she competes in various role play competitions across the country.

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