#Donate: If the single most characteristic feature of the 21st century was chosen, social media would definitely be among the forerunners for the title. In the past decade especially, the advent of social media has taken over our lives. From MySpace to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram et cetera, the world of social media has become grown exceptionally.

The takeover by social networking sites and apps is generally taken in a negative context. There is always a never-ending stream of criticisms directed at the virtual world. The critics often propagate the notion of social media desensitizing people to the real world problems. These arguments, while not entirely untrue, completely disregard social media’s potential for positive impact, if used wisely.

Recently, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge campaign received much media frenzy. It was also successful in raising awareness as well as donations for its cause. The “tagging” process, such as #Donate, through social media websites led to a massive campaign, which also involved many celebrities.

Popular Facebook page “Humans of New York” managed to raise $1.2 million in a campaign for an inner-city school. The catalyst-a viral photograph of an inspiring middle school boy.

A photograph of a Filipino boy doing his homework under the light of a McDonald’s restaurant posted on Facebook went viral, as it was shared almost 7,000 times. The significant number of people interested in contributing to the boy’s education led to the establishment of an online fundraising campaign. The campaign generated enough funds to cover nine-year old Daniel up till college.

These stories, and many more like these, establish the significance of social media in modern world activism. The creation of social media websites has enabled an unprecedented platform to create awareness for the issues in the world. Pages like GoFundMe or Network For Good allow for anyone and everyone to start fundraising campaigns for a cause they hold near and dear.

In the fast world of social media however, fundraising can sometimes become a challenge as well. The campaigns like the ALS fundraiser require the donor to go to a separate website and then donate. As easy as it is to type a web address and make a few simple clicks, it is still somewhat of a hassle for social media users. Mostly attuned to “liking” or commenting on statuses, the process of redirecting to other websites can be annoying for the users.

This has given rise to “slacktivism”—where “activists” on social networking websites become slackers in actual donation process. In the ALS campaign, for example, the donors were far outnumbered by the people who shared the videos.

To assist the users in donating quickly and efficiently, a Washington DC-based startup Good World has come up with an innovative idea. They partner with a network of nonprofit charities. Users need a one-time signup for Good World to contribute to any charity of their choice within their network. To donate, the users simply need a hashtag of donation and their choice of amount of contribution typed into the comments section.

The system of commenting also simplifies the process of further promoting the campaign. Instead of having to “share” their donation through separate websites, the comment can be directly viewed by the user’s friends. This also gives them a faster way to make a contribution by simply commenting on the thread. The web service also forwards tax-deductible receipts to the registered email address.

The service has certain caveats: almost five percent of the donated amount is automatically deducted to fund the technology itself. There is also a 2.2 percent processing fee associated with the service. The additional charges may serve to distance some users.

In spite of the challenges, Good World is a valuable innovation in ensuring our technology remains up to speed with our generosity.

– Atifah Safi

Sources: Good World, Wall Street Journal, Daily Mail, PBS, Washington Business Journal
Photo: The Guardian

UNICEF is the first organization that is stating the obvious and encouraging “slacktivists” to give more than a millisecond to “like” a page or Facebook meme. UNICEF ads that state “Like us on Facebook and we will vaccinate zero children against polio” and parody commercials spark conversation about how effective social promotion is versus donations and volunteering. Social-promotion also makes organizations  rethink the motives of social media campaigns and how they are to use the viral sphere to generate monetary support.

Social sharing is no doubt helpful in generating conversation and awareness, but the reality of the matter is that Facebook likes don’t save lives. However, people that socially promote a cause, whether they are long-time supports or just jumping on the band-wagon, prove to have just as much potential in donating or volunteering as non-social-promoters. In a 2,000-person study by Georgetown University and Ogilvy Worldwide, social promoters were just as likely as non-social-promoters to give money and slightly more likely to volunteer their time. In another 2011 study by the Internet Journal First Monday, Henrik Serup Christensen found that online activities didn’t reduce off-line mobilization. “It is at worst harmless fun and can at best help invigorate citizens,” said Christensen.

On the other side of the argument “slacktivists” are actually less than what they sound like and are simply bored internet users posting another status update. Zeynep Tufekci, a sociology professor and a fellow at the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society, explained the social-promotion phenomena as non-activists taking symbolic action to utilize and open spheres traditionally used solely by professionals and activists. Basically, organizations such as UNICEF should not worry about these “slacktivists” because they were never money donating, activists in the first place.

-Kira Maixner
Source: The Atlantic, You Tube

In the wake of the END IT Movement and Human Rights Campaign, more attention is being paid to what  (if any) tangible benefits are derived from the social media form of activism commonly referred to as slacktivism. In an effort to highlight the financial shortcomings of social media activism, UNICEF Sweden has launched a new advertisement criticizing Facebook slacktivism and calling for greater monetary support.

The advertisement (pictured above) shows the ubiquitous UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) logo eclipsed by the sobering phrase, “Like us on Facebook, and we will vaccinate zero children against polio.” The ad goes on to critique the efficacy of Facebook slacktivism is by asking for donations as opposed to “likes” to help purchase polio vaccines for children.

In regards to the advertisement criticizing Facebook slacktivism, UNICEF Sweden Director of Communications Petra Hallebrant remarked that, “We like likes, and social media could be a good first step to get involved, but it cannot stop there.”

UNICEF Sweden’s critique of social media activism marks a turning point in what was previously full-fledged support of outreach via Facebook slacktivism. Is their criticism warranted? Researchers from Georgetown University recently published a study showing that social-media promoters were just likely as non-promoters to donate money, however, the promoters did in fact volunteer 15% more of their time than non-supporters.

The challenges facing NGOs in increasing donations has never been more difficult given the current economic climate and high unemployment figures. However, for those activists who lack the capital necessary for frequent donations, participation in Facebook slacktivism is a means of raising awareness when the requisite finances are lacking.

– Brian Turner

Source: The Atlantic