Slacktivism, or the practice of supporting a cause on social media or through online petitions with a low level of commitment, is changing. Ramona Pringle, a technology expert and associate professor at Ryerson University, says in the past year more celebrities have made larger efforts to do more to support causes. She said that the evolution of activism has been substantial. “A lot of the criticism or cynicism around slacktivism had to do with things like campaigns to change your profile picture, where it feels like everyone wants to do good, or they just want to get on board because everyone else is doing it,” she said. That changed last year when K-Pop groups rallied together to help raise funds for the Black Lives Matter Movement, she said. “There was this match a million campaign… where they said to their army, their legion of stans that if they could raise a million dollars among the community they would match it,” she said. “They could have started with that and just brought awareness to it to a global audience, but instead they said let’s raise some funds, put your cash and we’ll match it.”
People are using social media, now more than ever, to build their brand and branch out to sell their products and expertise. Ramona Pringle, a technology expert and associate professor at Ryerson University, says in the latest Editor’s Edition that unlike Rihanna, a pop star who built her social media presence from her existing audience, there are many building their online following from square one. One example is Studio McGee, a family-owned design business that was promoted on Instagram, which led to the family’s own design-focused Netflix show. “This is the social media influencer’s fairy tale,” Pringle said. “It is what everyone is hoping for, a TV show, a product line.” Pringle says that social media has offered people another road to success. “There’s more opportunity for people to make something for themselves,” she said.
While social media has been around for many years, influencer culture has changed a lot in the past year. Ramona Pringle, technology expert and associate professor at Ryerson University, says posts from celebrities, such as Rihanna’s recent Tweet about the farmers’ protests in India, spark awareness. She says celebrities like Rihanna are part of an influencer group known as a “new kind of gatekeeper of information,” but what kind of change stars can affect with their online activism remains to be seen. She said that while much of the influence will come from celebrities, politicians, and pop stars, more recently we’ve seen new influencer voices rising to power. Pringle says these new creators are using social media to capture an audience, whether it’s through commerce, activism, or creating niche community bubbles. The power of influence is shifting, and Pringle believes even though it might help to have a following before you join social media, small brands and individuals are also using social media to build that following from scratch. And it’s working.