I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do. — Edward Everett Hale
Advances in technology and the shrinking of the world now make it easier to reach out and minister to the world.
Maybe too easy, some think.
Critics have coined the new term, "slacktivism," a combination of "slacker" and "activism." The online Urban Dictionary defines it as "the act of participating in obviously pointless activities as an expedient alternative to actually expending effort to fix a problem."
Snopes.com, referring to e-mail petitions, defines the term as "the search for the ultimate feel-good that derives from having come to society's rescue without actually getting one's hands dirty, volunteering any of one's time or opening one's wallet."
Critics who claim these types of actions aren't effective often cite as examples people who support a cause by wearing a wristband or displaying a ribbon car magnet. They claim such people do these things instead of spending time to learn about the cause and work to educate others.
Some individuals, critics say, sign Internet petitions rather than write letters. Other people participate in symbolic one-day boycotts or blog or click to feed the hungry, instead of changing their lifestyles or volunteering at a food pantry.
By those standards, nonbelievers might place Christians in the "slacktivism" camp. Pray for someone's illness or for people affected by a natural disaster? Put a dollar in an offering plate to make a difference in the world?
Believers take these actions because they know such efforts work. (After all, look at what one Jesus did with just five loaves and two fish!)
Perhaps a better term than "slacktivism" might be "digital activism" or online social action or active faith. Look at how small online actions have already added up to big ministry and assistance over time:
- TheHungerSite.com and other linked causes sponsored by Greater Good (greatergood.com) helped fund more than 6,900 mammograms, 445,000 books for children, assisted 751,000 children in other ways and more in 2009 – all because individuals have clicked a button, played games and shopped on those sites.
- Freerice.com visitors, just by picking the right answer to multiple-choice questions about vocabulary, languages, geography, math and art, have provided enough rice to feed more than 4.32 million people for one day, in just over three years.
- People gave more than $43 million to Haiti relief by texting on mobile phones. Find out more at MobileGiving.org.
What are some steps you can take?
- You can fight for literacy and Haiti or fight against malaria through Twitter at Hope140.org. Often opportunities surface on FacebookCauses at facebook.com/causes.
- Read tinyurl.com/SnopesandEmail to maximize an e-mail petition.
- Make a microloan through kiva.org.
- Use sites like GoodSearch.com to benefit charities through your Web searches.
- You can support Hannibal-LaGrange University's missions program through its search and shopping download at tinyurl.com/HLGGenie.
- Create a poll and gather opinions at VoteGlobal.com.
With digital activism, what you do can make a big difference, especially when combined with others' contributions and a little faith.
Ken Satterfield is Word& Way's marketing and advertising coordinator.
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