Kony 2012 proves charities need slacktivists

The Kony 2012 campaign has the world asking a question – who is Joseph Kony?

If you haven’t seen the video, go spend half an hour watching a moving and inspiring film, as 72 million others have in the space of a week.

The aim of the campaign is to make Joseph Kony, one of the worst war criminals in the world famous, have him arrested, and give his child soldiers back to their parents in Uganda.

The American non-profit behind it, Invisible Children, been widely criticised for how it spent money, and its over-simplication of the issues behind over 20 years of conflict. It has also led to widespread condemnation of the millions who have shared the film on Facebook and Twitter thinking it counts as campaigning – the trend known as slacktivism.

Slacktivism involves lazy individuals doing simple activities like clicking Like on Facebook or Share on Twitter for charitable campaigns, sitting back with a smug smile, and feeling content that they made a real difference to the world.

We look down on slacktivists. They aren’t real supporters. While they’re comfortable at home occasionally clicking buttons on websites, the real activists are at the coal face, working hard to give direct help where it’s most needed, or spending hours truly campaigning for change.

The idea that slacktivism is a bad thing is as ridiculous as it is arrogant.

Anti-slacktvists think their own brand of activism (taking part in real protest marches, running marathons for charities, volunteering to support vulnerable people) is the only way to do good. Anyone who thinks they can have a positive impact on the world without even switching off their laptops is deluded, their activities even damaging.

Let’s be clear – slacktivists do not face a choice between making a “real” difference and clicking Like, and choose the latter. They face a choice between watching another YouTube video of Keyboard Cat, and broadcasting an important message to 120 friends.

Do you think they should choose the cat?

Anti-slacktivists also seem to believe that campaigning and awareness raising isn’t an essential charitable activity. They are wrong. Here’s why:

– Justgiving have found that a Like on Facebook is worth £5. Therefore, slacktivists are fundraisers.

– Charities lobby governments to change laws that change lives. This relies on the support of thousands of slacktivists who sign petitions, email their MP, and sharing the charity’s message with their friends.

Charities rely on information sharers. Active Fat urge us to “warn our mates about active fat!” The NSPCC need you AND your friends to know that all babies count. Life-saving campaigns like this cannot have the reach they need without the help of this huge layer of occasional supporters.

It’s time to stop looking down our noses at slacktivists. It’s time to harness their incredible reach. It might just save the life of a child like Jacob.

2 Responses to “Kony 2012 proves charities need slacktivists”

  1. Jon 03/12/2012 at 2:23 pm #


    Not sure I agree with you on this. You say:

    “They face a choice between watching another YouTube video of Keyboard Cat, and broadcasting an important message to 120 friends. Do you think they should choose the cat?”

    No, but they should also not just blindly share other videos or links too without actually understanding what they are sharing. The Kony campaign, as you mentioned, has been criticized for over-simplifying the issues and not telling the full story. That means a lot of people have shared this video without actually understanding it.

    If charities want ‘slacktivists’ to continue to share their message, then they need to be honest and open about the full story up-front. Otherwise they could lose the trust of these important likers and sharers, and then they wont be liking or sharing the charities next campaign.

    P.S. I see no problem with people posting videos of keyboard cat. Keyboard cat is awesome.

    • Charity Chap 05/17/2012 at 8:42 am #

      Hi John, sorry for the late reply, your comment got drowned out in spam!

      I totally agree that charities should be up front about the message they’re sharing with supporters – this is basic communications that should happen all the time.

      For Kony, if they had created a more accurate message, I’d like to think that we’d be praising those who shared it, instead of dismissing their actions as insignificant.

      And you are completely correct – Keyboard Cat is just fantastic.


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