Just who are you calling slactivists?

It’s so funny how obsessed we are with generational lines these days. I admit, I’m fascinated too. For the first time in our nation’s history, we have five generations in the workplace. Obviously there are differences in managing styles, priorities, communication styles, etc. Add in technology, and you have many challenges facing the working world right now.

For the most part, I like engaging in discussions about our differences. Seeing as I’m on the youngest end of the spectrum, I keep my mouth shut and listen most of the time. For good reason. I recognize that it’s not a flexing contest. There’s no “right” way to do anything. It’s just a matter of us figuring out how to work with each other. Ok, fair enough. Go ahead and question if Gen Y is smarter or dumber for the internet. Go ahead and wonder if we’ve been too coddled, given too many trophies and told we’re all special. Question if it made us feedback-seeking fiends. I’m ok with that. But there is one thing that I put my foot down on.

Don’t call us lazy.

Ad Age just ran an article by Ann Marie Kerwin entitled, “How to Get the Social-Media Generation Behind Your Cause.” I hope you do read it, but in case you don’t, please read the first paragraph copied here:

Once social activism meant protest marches, civil obedience and sit-ins. But for today’s 20-somethings — sometimes called “slactivists” — supporting or denouncing a cause is as simple as hitting the “like” button on Facebook or posting a hashtag to Twitter. And that’s often where it ends.

After reading those three sentences, my eyes narrowed. Come again Ad Age? Slactivists?

It was as if someone was shaking their fist at Gen Y saying. “Those darn kids!” How antiquated, Ad Age. How ridiculously close-minded and antiquated.

Where to even begin? How about the fact that we were volunteering before Facebook invented the “Like” button. We were using Facebook groups to mobilize people on campuses WAY BEFORE we were given the option to click a dumb thumbs-up sign underneath a post.

Facebook didn’t even have status updates before Twitter. If you want to cite us as the “Hey look at us!” generation, then don’t accuse us of a trend that did not start with us, but rather started with Twitter’s “What are you doing?” real-time fettish. (Sidenote: Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, Biz Stone are Gen X, Zuckerberg & co. are Gen Y) Facebook adopted the status feature after Twitter’s rise in popularity.

Moving on, look at who uses Facebook and Twitter now. According to Pingdom, the average age of Facebook user is 38.4 years old. Twitter had a user 39 years old. So who exactly is this social media generation?

If anything, I had always heard that Gen Y was vying to be one of the most altruistic generation. This was something I not only took pride in, but agreed with. Hell, applying to college was a long listing of volunteer activity. You want examples of Gen Y stepping up and getting involved? I’ll keep it isolated to my high school alone.

When a boy died of leukemia in the grade above me, a group of seniors created a St. Jude’s Club to help others. They organized a walk to commemorate his death. When a grade school down the street experienced a similar tragedy, we honored their lost friend too by widening our cause to include that child’s story.

When you join a student organization on most college campuses these days, it’s an understood that the group will be somehow affiliated with a cause. Not to mention all of the student organizations that are founded for the sole purpose of supporting a cause. Look at the listing of organizations students can join at my alma mater. One of my RSOs, the Student Alumni Ambassadors, started an event called iHelp, a day-long community-wide volunteer project where U of I students flooded nursing homes, day cares, parks, animal shelters, etc to lend a hand. We’re talking 1,200 students helping at over 40 different places across Champaign-Urbana.

At school, my friends did Engineers Without Borders. Currently, several of my friends are currently doing Teach for America all across the country. My friend Jackie just relocated to New York to do Americacorps. A friend and fellow SAAer, Fei Wang has biked with The Illini 4000 for Cancer which sends a team of 25 students to bike a 4,000-mile-coast-to-coast stretch in order to raise $100,000 for the American Cancer Society. A month or so ago, I went to a Beer for Books event supporting the Austin chapter of Room to Read, attended and led mostly by Millennials.

To call them slactivists is just a slap in the face.

I’m job-hunting right now. I can tell you of all of the websites “About us” pages I’ve browsed recently, Adlucent is one that has interested me the a lot. Why? In addition to doing cool work, they offer their employees a week of paid vacation for volunteer time per year. Imagine that. Not only encouragement but empowerment to help others. Just as this TIME article predicted, it spoke to Millennials. I applied.

I’m all for exploring generational differences. When it turns into an ageist mud-slinging, I’m no longer interested.

Additional related links:

Generational Interchanges: Millennials and Volunteerism

How to combat click-through activism

Forbes.com: The Altruistic Gen Y Employee

Framing Science: Facebook’s Click Through Activism: Illusory Participation?

Social Citizens Blog: The Art of Demystifying a Millennial Volunteer


7 Comments on “Just who are you calling slactivists?”

  1. What I find interesting is Ms. Kerwin’s assertion in Ad Age that Gen Y is lazy because they use the like button on FB to promote social causes.
    Huh? The simple fact that this Facebook tool allows people to share what charities they support with their network is huge.
    Think back. How did we know about charities before? Non-profit events, advertising, school etc. Most of this information was provided by the charity or volunteers. Recently, I’ve planned volunteer work with friends VIA Facebook. Could not & would not have done so without friends sharing on Facebook.
    Take THAT Ms. Kerwin.
    For the record, I’m a Gen Xer.

    • kellystonebock says:

      Exactly! I like how talking about causes somehow correlates to us not taking action. I do understand her overarching thought, which is why I included some of the links below the post. I just don’t think she was being fair to Gen Y or truly doing her research for this one.

    • kellystonebock says:

      Not to mention she fails to really recognize how Facebook has already mobilized people. She briefly mentions it, but doesn’t real delve into what help messages, groups and wall posting has done in terms of organizing volunteer efforts.

  2. kellystonebock says:

    Thanks Peggy! I should have mentioned you by name, Ms. Room to Read 🙂

  3. Fantastic post! Definitely going to sharing this one.

    There is so much to say about the cynism that arises out of almost every difference we can conceive of in mankind. Instead of offering insights into what current or new generations could offer the world as potential benefits – we almost always opt (we being media or accepted talking points) for the route of tearing generations down with negative aspects of them.

    I for one will be thinking about what I say in the generational mud-slinging battle and rise above it. I think I’ll be writing something about this in my blog/thoughts soon. There is just so much here!

    • kellystonebock says:

      Thanks so much for the comment! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I’ll be reading your blog too- I start working at a nonprofit when I get back from my vacation! 🙂

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