GeekChic: 18 March 2012

18 March 2012 - 02:16 By Shanthini Naidoo

Have you heard the word slacktivism? Urban Dictionary describes it as: "Obviously pointless activities as an expedient alternative to actually expending effort to fix a problem."

Why I feel a need to talk about this not-new concept is the Kony2012 campaign, also not new. Kony2012, if you are one of the 15 people in the world who has not seen an e-mail, Tweet, BBM, Facebook page, Pintrest board or news story about it, is a touching video created by a US charity called Invisible Children.

It campaigns for the arrest of war criminal Joseph Kony (pictured), leader of Ugandan rebel group the Lord's Resistance Army that recruits child soldiers to kill, rape and maim. The 30-minute video now has over 100 million YouTube hits and counting.

I have few issues with Kony2012, or any other movement that has the good intention of bringing important issues into our awareness. It is the slacktivism around these issues that is worrying.

Here is a flow-chart of how a typical campaign for liberal causes goes:

It starts out on activist fridges (in the Kony2012 case, gets several thousand hits on YouTube). Next it legitimately raises awareness or funds for the project (the Kony campaign has been around for nine years and has made a difference).

Then it hits mainstream. People mention it on their Facebook profiles, tweet about it, make the logo their BBM profile picture.

Then argumentalists criticise it, pointing out that the campaign is old, that Kony is no longer in Uganda, that Invisible Children misappropriated some funds or that the US is after Uganda's resources. People remove the links from their Facebook, Twitter and BBM profile pictures.

Then it becomes the subject of comedy. (Twitter joke: "I haven't seen this many people interested in what's going on in Africa since Mufasa died.")

Finally, the campaign is forgotten when the next one comes up. The slacktivists are the antithesis to those behind the Arab spring revolution who actually sparked conversations and put pressure on the right people.


Shopping for fashion online is the norm overseas, and is taking off in South Africa. One drawback for buyers and sellers is inconsistent sizing, which is partly why a third of purchases are returned, making the quick sale pointless.

Anna Powell-Smith, a London-based web developer, created What Size Am I?, an online app that uses your measurements, then sorts through a selection of UK and US labels to find your actual size at specific stores. Sounds like a good idea for a fashionable techie out there, ahead of our local online revolution.


A new disease to conquer. Nomophobia: "no-mobile-phone phobia" or the fear of being without your mobile phone.

Shanthini is ShantzN on Twitter