The development of this shame culture has not only created a misguided moral system wherein actions are judged based on one’s inclusion or exclusion from a certain group, but it has also rendered political activism into much more of a selfish enterprise—as an opportunity for individuals to promote themselves alongside a political issue.
Contrast today’s activism with that of the civil rights era in the 1960s. These movements were characterized by hundreds of thousands of students participating in sit-ins, boycotts, walkouts, and confrontations with police. To be recognized as an activist for these causes, you couldn’t just talk about how much you liked MLK, you had to get out there on the front lines.
While student crusades today have also featured sit-ins, boycotts, walkouts, and even squabbles with police, one’s physical presence is no longer required to cement a place in the movement. Tweeting out a popular article or publishing a Facebook essay about how much you care, all from the comfort of your bedroom, conveys a person’s commitment without him actually having to do anything meaningful. Because of social media, you can now reap the social benefits associated with being an activist without, well, actually being an activist.
Ironically, this slacktivism might do more to inhibit a movement than help it.