We're a generation that believes in change. For us, change is much more than just a five letter word that finds a mention in our conversations. We proudly see ourselves as the movers of this progression. We're educated, rational and resourceful but then, how often do we really extend these qualities beyond Facebook and Twitter?
We've all expressed our grief about the sad state of affairs in various parts of the world and written social media posts waxing eloquent about what needs to be done. But is that the best we can do?
Don't issues like poverty, women empowerment and terrorism deserve much more than just 140 characters?
While we're a generation that believes in change, unfortunately, we want to bring about that change, sitting on our lazyboys, in front of our laptop screens, in an air-conditioned room. The closest we get to reality is through pictures that go viral!
We're a generation of armchair activists.
As per the Oxford dictionary, armchair activism, popularly known as slacktivism, stands for the actions performed via the Internet in support of a political or social cause but regarded as requiring little time or involvement. Sounds familiar?
The power of social media is not unknown. One hashtag can sometimes become the precursor of change. But have you actually contributed to that change?
Someone voices their opinion about a political or social issue in their Facebook status and we like it. Sometimes, we comment on it in a paragraph or two. But that only gets us 100 likes and 50 shares. It doesn't change anything!
What it does is gratify our own need for validation!
Human beings are social creatures. We struggle to find our place in various social groups. Acceptance is a direct result of being in sync with the dominant ideas of a particular social group.
As humans, we also seek attention. To gratify this need for attention, we indulge in conversations (generally online) where we try to prove a point that's strong enough to get us noticed. And this is how armchair activism comes to the forefront.
We want to come across as smart individuals, every time we speak of issues strongly on our social media profiles. People think we care. Forget people, even we think we care. But in this blind line of vision, we tend to blur out the fact that all we care about are the number of likes we get.
That's because the feel-good factor that comes with writing about poverty or women empowerment on Facebook, overrides our stimulus that could help us take any real action.
It only gets worse when people turn complacent and become uninformed moral compasses.
Armchair activists soak the glory, without bearing the pains.
But they are not all that different. While activists are put into jail, slacktivists are bound by the walls of their house. Activists invest their money in a particular cause, armchair activists invest in high-speed wifi plans.
Activists fight modern day battles, armchair activists fight trolls. And we all know who gets the fame!
To further solidify their image as a true-blue activist, the slacktivist participates in candlelight marches. Pictures from these marches become their cover photo, with captions that claim they are a part of change. This becomes their mini-vacation into reality.
Pay attention to the word 'vacation' here, given that these marches let them stroll around the city's picturesque locations and get them likes on Facebook.
It will be wrong to say that armchair activism has never led to anything substantial.
Movements like Black Lives Matter, Justice For Nirbhaya, The Arab Spring and many more have amplified because of social media.
What we tend to ignore though is that these movements achieved their final form only after people came out on the streets to protest. These rallies and marches were not governed by the idea of posting pictures on Facebook but by yearning for change instead.
This also reminds me of the nearly-superficial importance of online petitions.
We've all signed multiple petitions, without knowing what they result in. The reality is that they only bring about a change when someone steps out of their house and makes the effort of dragging the issue to the notice of the concerned party.
It's important to think twice before we sign the next online petition that comfortably sits in our inbox. Do we genuinely feel about the cause? And if we do, do we have the drive that forces us to step out and act?
Has our consent become so meaningless that it doesn't even matter to us whether the result will be fruitful or not?
Somewhere between the fear of missing out and the need to stay relevant, armchair activists prosper in the confines of their fancy households. Today, it looks like that it's with high speed internet and not great power, that comes great responsibility.