Hashtag Activism 2.0: Sites Aim To Turn Attention Into Change : NPR

“Dump a bucket of ice water on your head and post the video on Facebook. Or tweet a picture of yourself holding a sign reading “#BringBackOurGirls.” Or sign an online petition. Voila, you’re an instant activist!

Welcome to the much-derided world of so-called hashtag activism, or “slacktivism,” that’s become something of a calling card for the millennial generation. Some enterprising young people are trying to change that, launching startups they hope can take our passing interests or underlying values and guide all of us — not just millennials — into more directed and, most importantly, sustained civic engagement.

Their concepts run the gamut from policymaking “bootcamps” to a social network dedicated to civic identities. Popvox, a Silicon Valley-based site started four years ago to help people better interact with members of Congress, is undergoing a “stem to stern” overhaul this fall, as co-founder Marci Harris describes it. Nonprofit good-government groups have been trying to up their engagement game. The Participatory Politics Foundation, which runs the online clearinghouse on Congress, OpenCongress, recently launched AskThem. It allows constituents to have Twitter conversations with elected officials — 140 characters or fewer, please.

“There’s sort of a scale of engagement, and ‘like’ ” — as in that Facebook thumbs-up — “is the first rung on the scale,” says Lee Rainie, director of Internet, science and technology research at the Pew Research Center, which last year released a study on civic engagement in the digital age. The big question for these startups “is whether they can translate the ‘like’ … into something more.”

What they’re up against: human nature, a jaded public and the micro-attention spans of the 21st century.”

via Hashtag Activism 2.0: Sites Aim To Turn Attention Into Change : NPR.