“Clicktivism”: Can a click change the world?

Each one of us has an opinion; each one of us has a voice. But only a few choose to be heard, and they do so using a variety of ways. From ancient times on and up to the not-so-distant past, those who had something to fight for – land, freedom, even love – marched to the streets in order to display their unflinching defiance against a tyrannical ruler or a greedy landlord. There were also those who utilized their literacy to their advantage. Armed with pen and paper, they assaulted those in power with stinging commentaries on the affairs of the state. Nowadays, a new brand of activism is taking the world by tweets and updates. Social networking sites are beginning to be seen as online havens where like-minded individuals can convene and campaign against faulty administrations, giving rise to what is now called “clicktivism”.

Clicktivism is a portmanteau of the words “click” and “activism”. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, clicktivism is “the use of social media and other online methods to promote a cause.” Activist Micah White traces the roots of clicktivism back to the year 1997 when an online political organization called MoveOn was founded. MoveOn was seen as a centre-leftist, pro-Democrat force in the US utilizing marketing and programming to spread its messages to the public.

The issue of clicktivism has been dissected by varying schools of thought. Some consider clicktivism as “21 st century activism” and are convinced that the Internet’s ability to reach a wide scope of audiences can encourage or persuade people to support or join advocacies. You may remember that I have previously actually written about this matter in my article about internet activism (http://www.knutnylaende.com/knut-harald- nylaende-on- internet-activism/ ). Others, particularly militant activists, are disgusted by the idea of clicktivism, which gives individuals a false impression of helping forward a cause, when they (the militant activists) believe that the only way to actually impose change is through a show of force.

Perhaps the most popular incident in which clicktivism played a major role was the ouster of former Egyptian Prime Minister Hosni Mubarak in 2011. The opposition made full use of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to update their brethren and inform the world of what went on in the Egyptian nation. The Egyptian government felt so threatened by the leftists’ online presence that they had the aforementioned sites blocked for a month. By doing so they made even more people leave home and enter the streets and the gathering spots to find out how things developed, – contrary to what the government had hoped for. The revolution was successful as Mubarak stepped down from his post, and clicktivism’s reputation as an alternative to “violent” forms of activism went through the roof.

Clicktivism can go either way: it can be a tool for change or a tool for personal satisfaction. I acknowledge the Internet’s influence over a large percentage of the population, but is this really enough? Where is the good in informing the public of the plight of the oppressed if it can only do so much as implore a user to “like” a page, view a video, or retweet? Clicktivism can only succeed if it moves an individual so much that he/she will actually log out of the site, shut down his/her personal computer, get out of her room, and spread the word, vote or join the masses as they struggle for a better future.

Knut Harald Nylænde is the Chief Executive Officer of Moxie AS, an investments company which he also founded. With degrees from the best business schools in Norway, Knut is known today as one of the most efficient investments executive and business consultants.