Trash Walking

disposables, keepers, treasures

“Slacktivism”, Activism, being the hummingbird. A rebuttal.

on December 9, 2014

A little off the course from my usual Trash Walking posts, but this opinion piece by Scott Gilmore, and published in Macleans magazine on so called “Slacktivism” really got me riled up, so please bear with me, readers.  Have a look at the piece here, then please read my response.

I think that what the author fails to understand is that those of us who click, share, and sign online petitions DO care about the particular cause we are promoting on our social media pages and may, in fact, care about several causes simultaneously. But we can’t give our time or our money to every cause that we care about. So people and organizations use social media to, at the very least, raise awareness, and maybe that awareness raising does lead others, who are able to, to donate money or time. No, I did not donate any money to the Bring Back Our Girls campaign, but I do share information about it, because I believe that the situation is an atrocity that needs to be addressed, and I hope with all my heart that The Chibok girls are finally returned to their families. Mr. Gilmore, ask the families of those girls if they are happy that the situation has gained worldwide attention.  Ask the good people at ALS Canada and USA if they are happy that “slacktivists” helped to promote their cause.  I think the fact that one hundred million dollars was raised will answer that question.

Personally, I have donated to a couple of causes this year, and I plan on continuing to do so. (Plan Canada and ALS.  I dumped the ice water, challenged my friends and made a small donation).  I am quietly active in several other areas locally.  I pick up garbage in my neighbourhood, I gave socks to a little girl named Hannah who is collecting new pairs socks for local people who could use them.  I painted rocks for a charity garage sale last year, put on by friends to support the Strickland children of London, Ontario, who lost both parents within a year. I’ve done other things, and so have my friends.

My point is, you know nothing about me or about others like me, Scott Gilmore, and your assertion that tweeting, or not shaving, or pouring ice over your head, or wearing a wristband and otherwise sharing information is “proof that you care more about yourself than the cause” is pretty damned arrogant.  On behalf of those who tweet, don’t shave, pour ice water over their heads, share Facebook posts, I’d like to ask you not to belittle us.  Like the hummingbird in Wangari Maathai’s retelling of the story and posted on The Kid Should See This, we are doing what we can.  Yes, Scott Gilmore, I Googled your name, and I see that you are quite a noted philanthropist, with impeccable credentials.  So maybe you made larger donations than we did, or maybe you spent more time working for a cause than us.  Good for you.  But please, don’t tell those of us who are trying to help in our own small way not to do what we can. If all someone does is click, tweet, or share, maybe it is all they can do right now.  If all someone does is drop a toonie in a donation bin, or a can of soup in a food bank collection station, that is what they can do.  Maybe they wish they could do more, and maybe, down the road, when they have more time or money, they will.

(Here is the link to the Story of the Hummingbird, as told by Wangari Maathai in Dirt! The Movie)

I’d really like to know what my readers think of this piece by Scott Gilmore, and about my response, so please chime in.  I apologize if this is a bit of a rant, but I felt it needed saying.

As always, happy trash walking, happy peace making.



2 responses to ““Slacktivism”, Activism, being the hummingbird. A rebuttal.

  1. Jen says:

    Hi Cindy,
    Good on you for taking the time to reply to an article that riled you up! Many of us never bother and there is so much to be gained from trying to understand ourselves why something pushes our buttons. As well as much to be gained for a larger audience who is challenged by your opposing opinion to Scott Gilmore’s.

    His article was annoying and offensive and put down, well, just about anyone on fb these days. BUT had some interesting points. The one that caught my attention was that a study out of UBC showed that people who ‘liked’ a cause were less likely to donate to it. That’s pretty sad indeed. I think the point he raised that many people just like to appear to be doing something and aren’t actually doing anything is probably valid for many people. Your point in response that those people are still raising awareness and helping a cause gain momentum is very valid too.

    Perhaps, as with many things social media these days, we are in a learning curve of how social media and good causes work together. I know for myself, I enjoy being informed about things I might not have been exposed to (your stuff on plastics, balloons, and the bringbackourgirls being examples). But I also find my inbox full of petitions to be signed everyday. And I’ve had to realize that I’m not comfortable signing when I don’t REALLY know what an issue is all about, but also, don’t have the time to be fully informed on everything that needs our attention these days.

    Anyways, just my thoughts. One final… although his article bugged you, in my opinion, he really wasn’t talking about you. You do far, far more than the blind sharing, liking or jumping on causes that I think he is referring to.

    Hope any of that is helpful!


    • cjwild2014 says:

      Thanks, Jen. I really appreciate the feedback. I also find an inbox full of petitions to sign, and I don’t sign unless I know something about the issue. You have to pick your issues, I think, otherwise your shares and likes become meaningless. I agree with you that we are in a learning curve regarding social media and good causes working together. I don’t think there is any doubt that social media is a powerful tool. Our ability to use it for good is evident in how it was used during the Arab Spring, or with the Idle No More movement. That it can also be used for evil is evident in the high profile cases of cyber bullying that we see too many times. I guess I just felt that I needed to say something in response to Mr. Gilmore’s article, because I think there are many of us out there who are genuinely concerned, and who want to help in some small way, even if it is only by liking or sharing. I don’t think that there really are any truly blind likers or sharers. If someone likes or shares, something has caught their interest and made them think.

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