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A podcast presenting different perspectives on the status-update quo

(Selfie Reflective is on Instagram and Facebook, but email is where you want to be 💌)

Jun 15, 2020

James Dennis is a senior lecturer in political communication and journalism at the University of Portsmouth ~

I have to admit - I’ve never really liked those Facebook profile picture overlays. You know the ones that have catchy slogans and campaign hashtags that are designed to raise awareness for certain issues like mental health - but have massive bank brands behind them? Yeah, you know. As well as wondering about the motivations of the brands behind these campaigns, I’ve often queried the individual motivations behind the people who add these overlays to their profile pictures. Are they really engaged - or do they just want to appear to be? Are they better citizens than me for using their platform to signal and proudly align themselves with a cause - while I just keep my regular profile picture? 

As with most things in our social media realm and our human behaviour, the answer is more complex than what’s on the surface. This practice of supporting a political or social cause by means such as social media or online petitions is sometimes referred to as 'Slacktivism' - which, by definition, is characterised as involving very little effort or commitment. Updating an overlay on your profile picture is pretty simple, after all - but is this popular definition - and my past scepticism - a fair assessment?

In this episode, we’re speaking with James Dennis, Senior Lecturer in Political Communication and Journalism at the University of Portsmouth. James’s research focuses on digital politics and in particular, political engagement on social media. James has written a book called Beyond Slacktivism: Political Participation on Social Media. By reflecting on his research, James argues that the definition of slacktivism is too narrow and that the use of social media in regards to political issues can actually be more beneficial and progressive than we think. 

In this episode, we chat to James about his research, popular definitions of slacktivism and his reasons as to why should think more broadly about this idea as it exists on the spectrum of being aware, informed and active.

For me, this conversation was really refreshing and hope-inspiring, and reflected the power that our social platforms have to spread awareness, educate and amplify resources and materials that are informative, useful and, ultimately, progressive.


Learn more about James, including information about his book: Beyond Slacktivism: Political Participation on Social Media, by visiting his website. You can also follow James on Twitter

Tweet any thoughts about this episode to @SelfieReflect