— aleatory

The Emperor Has No Clothes

Slacktivism has been exposed as a joke.

Angry MobHalf way through last week a nation erupted; the Republic of Ireland football team crashed out of the World Cup at the hand of Gaul, that of a certain Thierry Henry. A Facebook group was established. It took on something of a life of it’s own – over 300k users inside the first 24 hours.

“Something has to be done”.

FIFA made no mention of the incident in their official match report. It was edited several times, each time the Magnum PIs on Twitter reporting to the world the latest breach of instant populist moral values and punch-drunk notions of democracy. Avatars may not have been coloured green, but the online social network air was turning a particularly dark shade of blue and the feedback loop of increasingly agitated noise fed into itself, reaching a deafening cresendo online while steadily losing touch with reality.

Of course the same old predictable new media rubbish was trotted out the next day. Sky Sports News ran with the facebook group, the Guardian ran with the usual ‘Twittersphere exposes FIFA duplicity’ bollocks and generally everything was very ‘the power of the web this’, ‘online social network that’.

And then… nothing happened. The irate fans presumably sobered up and went back to whatever they were doing had the South not qualified and the ludicrous calls from the FAI and bandwagon jumping politicians had officially fallen on deaf ears at FIFA.

This left the organiser of the original page on Facebook – by this stage 400k strong – to lead a merry band of 150 people with nothing better to do on a Saturday afternoon to the French Embassy in Dublin. Ably assisted by Dustin the Turkey.

I guess I’m not doing a complete hatchet job on online campaigning here. There is a kind of potential value in online networks, but in each case until a method is found to unlock it, it remains just that – potential. After all the hullabaloo generated in the RoI football case a conversion rate of just .04% (with some generous rounding on my part) to partake in some form of action highlights what surely is the case for a majority of internet based issues – that they struggle to make the leap into anything meaningful in the physical world.

Certainly in PR terms it has a discrete value – albeit one that is more difficult to control. By saturday, realtime opinion regarding the protest march – the same medium that had elevated the issue to frontpage news only two days before – had largely reduced it to a laughing stock:

try living in Ireland – there’s a march on the French Embassy today. In this weather. I’m hoping all the idiots drown.
SpodoKomodo twitter update

2 comments
  1. Rolando says: 12 April 201010:42 pm

    I kinda think you’re missing the point. If it was something important, all that attention would have translated into real action. But it was just Football. Nobody cares about football a couple days later. If an earthquake hits or a war breaks out, you’re going to be grateful for those blaggers. Until then, don’t be surprised if notional populist initiatives fizzle out on their own. This is normal and typical mass human behavior and it has nothing to do with the medium of the internet itself.

  2. rutherford says: 14 April 20108:43 am

    To say the issue is unimportant is subjective – for the tens/hundreds of thousands of slackers it wasn’t.

    The point is it’s the medium that is weak – when faced with a barrage of criticism via the internet, it’s too easy simply to turn it off and dismiss it as a bunch of cranksters.

    No one can hear you scream here and that’s a problem digital has yet to get around. For an internet campaign to be effective it needs channelled in a specific way and an element of damage control on the more esoteric contributors.

    There needs to be some kind of quality control button.

    We see the basic development of this with the up vote in social apps – the Facebook like, the Twitter retweet. Such features are a crude metric for slacktivism – where is the next level of contribution?

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