With the invention of the internet in the past few decades, it has become easier than ever for people to resort to easy donations to political causes with just the click of a mouse – no real participation in the cause or invested time and effort. “Clicktivism,” much like the pre-internet “arm chair activism” involves a form of pseudo participation, sending in money in lieu of any actual effort on the cause’s behalf. And in a sense, “clicktivism” is the new “arm chair activism.” As the term suggests, someone could literally sit in their arm chair in their home and feel like an involved member of an organization with very minimal actual movement. Only instead of responding to a direct mailing (a real dinosaur in this day and age), people are supporting campaigns through online donations. As David Karpf outlined in “The MoveOn Effect: The Unexpected Transformation of American Political Advocacy,” this new norm in fundraising is actually hurting the well-established legacy organizations with more traditional methods of doing things. Membership and participation are suffering as people can go to other places, such as MoveOn.org and feel just as satisfied in participating in a cause by simply donating a small amount online. Are these donations really a form of active participation? What does this increase in “clicktivism” mean for political organizations? Not only do organizations need money to achieve their goals, but they also need volunteers. People sitting on their couches with their laptops donating money simply aren’t contributing a very necessary component of activism: Their time and manpower.
Emma Howard notes in her article “How ‘clicktivism’ has changed the face of political campaigns,” on theguardian.com that “the effectiveness of “clicktivism”, which also includes people supporting charities by liking them on Facebook, has been criticised by politicians and charity ambassadors.” According to the article, Facebook users are failing to grasp how much more they could do to help than just through passive clicking. So how can political activist organizations change this lack of participation beyond simply clicking their mouse? According to the article, some more involved activists are trying to get more of the campaign to happen offline. This may be a successful move, bringing communities of interested people together around a cause, but it also fails to recognize the key component driving “clicktivism” in the first place – people are lazy. Why would anyone take the time to volunteer for a campaign when they could give their donation and go back to whatever fun thing they were doing, all the while feeling good about participating in a cause? Furthermore, this new technology allows people with hypothetically unlimited funds to become “activists” in as many causes as they want. If someone donates to 50 different organizations, are they really a true participant in any of them? Where does a passion for the cause come into the equation? Passion surely seems like an important factor in terms of identifying as an involved participant in political activism. The real key to ending this increase in only minimal participation is simple: Make people feel like their donation isn’t good enough. Make them feel like a donation doesn’t equal a passion. Political activist groups need to change their messaging if they want the results they are looking for. They need to be telling people, Yes, donating is great, but we know you can do more.
Karpf, David. <i>The MoveOn Effect: The Unexpected Transformation of American
Political Advocacy</i>. New York: Oxford UP, 2012. Print.
Howard, Emma. “How ‘clicktivism’ Has Changed the Face of Political Campaigns.”
<i>The Guardian</i>. Web. 17 Apr. 2015.