an online petition persuaded a national organization representing high school coaches to develop materials to educate coaches about sexual assault and how they could help reduce assaults by their athletes. Online petitions have changed decisions by major corporations (ask Bank of America about its debit card fees) and affected decisions on policies as diverse as those related to survivors of sexual assault and local photography permitting requirements. Organizing and participating in these campaigns has also been personally meaningful to many.In 2013,
But, a nostalgia for 1960s activism leads many to assume that “real” protest only happens on the street. Critics assume that classic social movement tactics such as rallies and demonstrations represent the only effective model for collectively pressing for change. Putting your body on the line and doing that collectively for decades is viewed as the only way “people power” works. Engaging online in “slacktivism” is a waste, making what cultural commentator Malcolm Gladwell has called “small change.”
This amounts to a debate over the “right way” to protest. And it’s bound to heat up: The election of Donald Trump is pushing many people who have not previously engaged in activism to look for ways to get involved; others are redoubling their efforts. People have a range of possible responses, including doing nothing, using online connections to mobilize and publicize support and protesting in the streets – or some combination of tactics.
As a social movement scholar and someone who believes we should leverage all assets in a challenge, I know that much social good can come from mass involvement – and research shows that includes online activism. The key to understanding the promise of what I prefer to call “flash activism” is considering the bigger picture, which includes all those people who care but are at risk of doing nothing….(More)”