Connected: Clicktivism, supporting your on-the-ground activism

Our lives are becoming more and more online.

vectorstock 4381947By Jem Yoshioka

We’re connected through platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and email and it all fits inside the glass rectangle in our pockets. We’re living in a time where the digital streams of our lives are deeply intertwined with our physical selves.

It makes sense that the things we care about are now distributed online or in a digital format. There are a lot of advantages to digital distribution - it’s nearly infinite, practically instant, and requires very minimal running costs that barely affect most people with access. It’s created a whole new kind of interaction – instant access and instant updates about anything and everything on the planet.

As a union we benefit a lot from this interconnectivity. The amount of envelope stuffing as a part of day-to-day organising has been cut to a fraction. We can communicate about time sensitive things much faster and we can get this information out to more people than has previously ever been possible. Our networks are stronger and wider than they ever have been before.

While the internet was (arguably) made to distribute cat pictures, there’s no denying that we use it to talk about the issues we really care about too. Digital activism is growing, and the rise of online petitions in the last few years has seen a drastic shift in the tools that we have available to use for our activism. Online petitions, hashtags and viral messaging are a part of what’s being referred to as ‘clicktivism’. The often derisive term is meant to highlight the lack of actual in-depth engagement that online activism brings.

There’s a veritable ocean’s-worth of causes that people care about and want to organise around. Whether it’s support for a local community or an international campaign, we’re seeing online petitions join in the social media marathons for people’s valuable screen time. With the connectedness of our social networks, we can use our clicks to draw attention to the things we care about, no matter how busy we are.

It’s important to remember that like any tool, online tools can be used in a variety of ways and with varying levels of effectiveness. We’ve seen very real examples of the power of online petitions supporting on-the-ground organising – the latest round of TPP rallies shows that a petition signed by 100,000 people can result in good old-fashioned physical rally. People showed up all around the country, and this was largely because people talked about the petition and the rallies through their social networks.

Digital isn’t usurping physical, it’s augmenting it. It compliments and enhances the way we are connected, the messages we can share and who we can share them with. It strengthens what we can do in person and means that we’re stronger than we’ve ever been before.