I’m sure we have all caught a glimpse of a status like while mindlessly scrolling through our Facebook feeds:
“That girl you called a slut in class today. She’s a virgin. The pregnant girl walking down the street. She got raped. The boy you called lame . He has to work every night to support his family. That girl you pushed down the other day. She’s already being abused at home. That girl you called fat. She’s starving herself. The old man you made fun of cause ugly scars. He fought for our country. The boy you made fun of for crying. His mother is dying. You think you know them . Guess what? You don’t! RE-POST if you are aqainst bullying.”
“A 15 year old girl holds her 1 year old son; people call her a slut. But no one knows she was raped at 13. People call a girl fat; no one knows she has a serious disease that causes her to be overweight. People call an old man ugly; no one knows he had a serious injury to his face while serving our country in Vietnam. Re-post this if your against bullying and stereotyping!!!! I bet none of you will post this!!!”
Statuses like these have been the standard of what many call “slacktivism,” (which is unfortunately not activism inspired by Andrew Slack, though I wish this was the actual etymology of the word,) but the latest trend in internet activism that even slackers can participate in. In the past few weeks, Kony 2012 has exemplified this slacktivism by making Joseph Kony famous through Facebook likes and Twitter hashtags. Facebook memes like the sneaky gender-exclusive status updates for breast cancer awareness (BLUE WITH POLKA DOTS and I LIKE IT ON THE KITCHEN TABLE!) are an earlier example of slacktivist actions.
With the current attention on anti-bullying campaigns and legislation, memes like the quote above have been circulating Facebook for some time now. They have always irked me; the peer pressure “you-are-a-bad-person-if-you-don’t-post-this” vibe is very off-putting even for someone who generally agrees with the quote’s message. However, there is something else lurking under the surface of slacktivist actions that really makes me uncomfortable. In the case of these anti-bullying messages, it has to do with how the language of such sayings create specific ways that we are allowed to be people.