Can Clicktivism be considered a form of Activism?

Discussions under this topic may lead to endless debates and comparative statements such as “while some of us are hiding behind their keyboard pretending to be activists, others are actually on the street risking their lives and making some real actions”. Yet, it is a valid question and one we will keep asking ourselves… even though in many cases we may not have an answer, especially in times of tension and when drastic dehumanization are taking place… and this altitude between clicktivism and slacktivism will always be there and a point for self-reflection. 

Let us go back again to the times when we need to take actions online or in another word to practice “clicktivism”. And in order to understand what we are talking about let us give a small definition; clicktivism is any “action or set of actions that are taking place in the virtual world by using various new-media platforms in order to influence and to mobilize peoples and opinions”. If we decided to be engaged in clicktivism then we need to take into consideration two important aspects; goal and audience; It is crucial to have a clear understanding which is the “objective(s)” behind the intended action. 

To have a clear identification of the objective and to also to put it in a phrase that makes sense and that can convey/communicate what are you doing (or intend to do). I will not tell you to make your objective SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound) this can be one way of defining the objective which is great and there are also many other ways. The thing is to be able to understand your mandate or your scope of work and the aim of the online actions that you are intending to do. It is also important to have a clear understanding of the “audience” that your actions are aimed at or targeting. Why understanding the “target audience” is a key? 

Why should it always come on the top of your list? because, as simple as it might sound, you are dealing/communicating with people, and people have behaviour, set of values and beliefs…etc. It is also possible to group people based on specific criteria and in order to do so, we need to always have this clear understanding of who they are? what do they like? what they do not like?… simply you need to know everything about them just as you know yourself or your best friend. By making this exercise, then you will be able to proceed on with the online action you intend to do in an effective and relevant way. And you will be able also to draw the outline of your relevant and “dynamic” plan… Let us call this plan “communication and outreach plan for “objective XYZ”. 

I already mentioned the word “dynamic” it is also a key thing that you monitor what is going on with your plan (the content that you are communicating) and that you are being sensitive to the dynamics of the action you are doing and you are adjusting accordingly. With clicktivism, we care about many aspects and one of these aspects is the issue of outreach, engagement and influence all of that again depend on the objectives and what sort of clicktivism’s outcome you are after. In any case, be sure that you establish “dialogue” between you and your audience. 

Now the question would be why Clicktivism matters? Because it mobilizes people and it influences people’s opinions. Take the example of one our behaviour online when we subscribe to a number of pages about motivational quotes because of each day we need this dose of motivation, this dose of reminder and the need for someone to do it for us as well. Another example would be the number of websites that we see online prompting us to sign this petition and other website/platforms that are providing the service for us as “neutral” body to disseminate our online campaigns and so on. 

Moreover, how much of online content you encounter online related to extremism, hate, and violence? and how much encountering “positive and neutral content” are there? or in another word the issue of “countering narratives” and this is another question to ask ourselves what is our role in creating and in taking part in this “countering narrative” building and creation?To conclude, from my personal point of view and as a worker in a grass-roots civil society organization that is non-governmental and non-political, I can tell you that yes, we have clicktivism and it is working. 

Still, we need to combine offline with online mechanisms and to have a clear working approach from the very early stages of the “intervention mix” we plan to do… “sort of a strategy” then with the little you have (in case of small size and resources organisations) you will be able to exert huge and tangible positive impact and you will be an actor for positive change in your local community (whether offline or virtual) and this is what matters. By Suha Ayyash

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