An anonymous reader writes: If you participate in social media, you’ve probably noticed the flood of posts that happen any time a social issue becomes prominent in the news. Whether it’s sharing a supportive picture, changing their profile, or signing a petition, users flock to these causes. But are they really doing anything useful? An article from USC Dornsife debates whether this form of “lazy activism” is actually effective in pushing social change. It’s been long established that people are surrounded by a “filter bubble” online, where they’re only exposed to viewpoints they already agree with. There’s also the question of whether liking something on Facebook makes you less likely to contribute to a cause in more substantive ways. On the other hand, this type of internet activism does do what social networks are designed for: building a community. Strangers with the same views can more easily organize into groups, and groups of a certain size are heard by lawmakers, regardless of their origin. Plus, engaging in small, low-risk activism does make people more likely to engage in further activism with more impact. The real question we need to answer is whether the smaller and more ephemeral groups are doing more good than harm. For now, it’s clear that protesting face-to-face is far more effective than gathering in a chat room — but at the same time, hacktivism is growing in popularity as well. It may eventually have a similar effect to sit-ins and picket lines as our culture moves more and more online.
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