This week, Facebook has been all about the little red equality signs. It’s also been all about people complaining about the little red equality signs. Here’s my opinion on why this shit matters; I’m not going to get into why equality itself matters, because if you still need that explained, I’m pretty sure you’re not going to listen to any possible explanation anyway.
Slacktivism is when people do something easy and useless to make themselves feel like they are supporting a cause – any cause – instead of doing something that will, you know, actually support it. Social media is a hotbed of slacktivism. It’s a plague on humanity, not just because it spams up everybody’s newsfeed, but because it may prevent people from doing anything real.
See, they’ve already got that good feeling that they did something. So they’re not going to actually donate money, or write an email to a politician, or vote, or volunteer at a food kitchen, or go over to a cancer patient’s house and mow their lawn, or anything else that would make any tiny impact at all on anybody’s reality. They shared a picture of a hurt puppy to stop animal abuse! They clicked “Like” to prevent rape! They posted a dumbass cryptic status to prove they think a particular disease really sucks and somebody should make it go away!
All of these actions say “I’m not going to do anything about it. But somebody else totally should.” This is the first important point I want to make: slacktivism is bad.
But the second important point I want to make is that some easy things do have a real impact. Those things do not count as slacktivism. There is a real impact on society when you speak up about the fact that you are perfectly fine with concepts like gay marriage, black people voting, women having jobs, or other basic tenets of modern first-world life.
The only reason marriage equality is up for debate in the first place is that there are still people out there who are completely unaware how many of us regard it as completely normal and can’t even figure out why there’s any debate about it SERIOUSLY WTF WHY ARE WE EVEN STILL TALKING ABOUT THIS.
It’s been proven again and again that until people are shown otherwise, they tend to believe their own opinion is the majority viewpoint. Whoever you are, wherever you live, whether you’re a Walmart greeter in Arkansas or a 6’4″ heavily bearded professional drag queen called Princess Fabulous, I guarantee you know multiple people who have zero exposure to viewpoints other than their own.
So, there are a lot of people who think support for gay marriage is a minority opinion held by gay people and a few activists. They don’t realize how many straight people are perfectly fine with the concept. They don’t realize how many straight people have gay friends, gay relatives, gay coworkers, and consider gayness to be a completely normal thing that is met with about as much reaction as when somebody says “My cousin is a redhead” or “That new guy in accounting is from Minnesota.”
This is where the difference between slacktivism and activism comes in. What are you trying to change? If the goal is to cure a disease, voicing your opinion does jack squat, because as far as I know, microorganisms don’t give a shit about your opinion. But if the goal is to make people realize other people are cool with a certain concept, okay, I’m no expert, but it seems like OPENLY SAYING YOU’RE COOL WITH IT would be the absolute best way to achieve that.
When the goal is to change a country’s laws, there are multiple other ways you can help with that. Voting, writing to politicians, being elected to the Supreme Court, and so on. But don’t underestimate the impact of just casually saying you’re cool with it when the topic comes up in everyday life. It matters, and it makes a difference.