How To Move Beyond "Slacktivism"
When it comes to human trafficking, an injustice so wrong that it makes anyone want to run to the nearest brothel and kick some doors down, the average person might begin to feel a little powerless. We all want every slave to be freed, and we also want to feel like we have a part to play in that fight. Sometimes, it can be difficult to see how we can help at all.
Enter: slacktivism. “Slacktivism” is a term that defines the popular viral campaigns that require only a tweet, an Insta post, etc., to advocate against an injustice. This is the kind of activism that literally any person can do, requiring only the special skills of setting up a social media account and using your platform for good. Although the word may sound a little derogatory, this online advocacy is actually really powerful and has contributed to great changes in not only general awareness about human trafficking, but even government participation in the fight. Still, slacktivism becomes harmful when the activism goes no further than the screen. Online advocacy and campaigns are good and an important step, but they are not the end of the race.
Think about it like this: When you first heard about human trafficking, how did it make you feel? For me, I felt entirely powerless. I felt that there was this huge injustice just out there looming in the wide open and despite how much I wanted to, there was nothing I could do to stop it. Online advocacy made me feel like I was being helpful - like, in some way I was doing a good thing to stop a bad problem - and that perhaps I had done my part by letting all of my Facebook friends know that there are still 40,000,000 people enslaved around the world. But really, it was more for me than it was for anyone else. I wanted to feel like I was doing something important to replace the feeling of powerlessness against such a monster of an injustice. And although this advocacy was positive, it couldn’t be the end. I had nothing else to offer besides information that a bad thing was happening - information that I was spreading to people who, like me, didn’t know how to fight it. I realized that if I really wanted to do something, to make a change, to be a real activist, I had to fight a little harder.
I didn’t give up the online campaigns, but I did start to do a little more research into how I could make a real difference. One thing led to another, and the next thing I knew I was co-founding an International Justice Mission chapter at my college, surrounded by others who wanted a place to put their passion, and who were sick of holding onto feelings of powerlessness. And let me tell you, a small group of devoted, passionate and slightly angry people should never be underestimated. Baby step by baby step, we continued to advocate, write our lawmakers, plan large fundraisers, and team up with local organizations on a roller coaster that didn’t seem to have an end. I realized that the tweets and Instagram posts were just part of the initial spark, meant to start a large fire.
Now I don’t feel so powerless. I feel strong knowing that human trafficking is in no way something I can fight by myself, but that I am, also, not in this fight alone. There are hundreds of thousands of people who make the decision every day to keep going, to take the next baby step, and to just move a little bit further forward - and because of them people are being freed. In no way do I want to delegitimize the online campaigns, whose role is crucial in spreading information and shining a light on an injustice that has far too long been in the dark. But as activists, we have to keep going. So, I urge you to take the next step, and see where your feet might lead you. Perhaps it could be a walk toward your local or national lawmakers, letting them know why they should know and care about the victims of human trafficking. Perhaps your feet will lead you to the closest thrift shop, where you can pick up some secondhand dresses in preparation for next Dressember. Maybe for you, your feet will take you to law school, where you will become a human rights lawyer and spend your life advocating for the freedom of those enslaved. Wherever it may be, just let your feet take you somewhere - you might be surprised at what you’re capable of after all.
About the Author
Mallory Mishler is a Michigander, studying Women’s and Gender Studies, and Peace and Justice. She is passionate about using her voice to advocate for the freedom of all people, especially through creative mediums. When not writing, she can be found climbing mountains, caring for her plants or painting on things that shouldn’t be painted.