What is a Slacktivist?


photo credit: Rubin 110 via photopin cc

If you’ve heard me speak, you’ve likely heard the research behind the shift going on between the members of early Generation Y and the ones born since 1990, the ones I call: “Generation iY.” They’ve grown up on-line, influenced by the “i” world. Culture has molded them into different students than their earlier counterparts. They’re not bad kids, or troubled kids (necessarily) or slow kids. Some of them are smart as a whip. And I love them. But—we are seeing what society has done to them.

With the release of my book, Generation iY: Our Last Chance to Save Their Futurepeople are asking me these days: who are they? How is Generation iY different than the earlier students in Generation Y? Aren’t they just the same kids, but with more technology? Good questions. Let me attempt a rapid response below.

1. Born in the 1980s 1. Born in the 1990s
2. Highly compassionate 2. Low empathy
3. Activists 3. Slack-tivists (Want to be involved a little)
4. Technology is a tool 4. Technology is an appendage to my body
5. Passionate about a cause 5. Fashionate about a cause (If my friends do it)
6. Civic minded 6. Self-absorbed
7. Ambitious about the future 7. Ambiguous about the future
8. Accelerated growth 8. Postponed maturation

I still believe in these kids. I continue to believe they can and will change the world. However, they will do so if we figure out how to connect with them and guide them into the future. Minimally, this shift has delayed their entrance into adulthood. More than one college dean has told me, “26 is the new 18.” What young people most are healthy mentors who focus on building some fundamental skills in students:

  1. Emotional Intelligence (We must build soft skills in them)
  2. Character and Ethics (We must provide them with a moral compass)
  3. Strengths Discovery (We must help them to discover their primary gifts)
  4. Leadership Perspective (We must equip them to think and act like leaders)

In column three above I use the word: “Slacktivist.” People ask me what I mean by that. Let me provide a definition that comes straight from the students themselves:

A Slacktivist: One who advocates for social change one tweet, Facebook “Like”, on-line donation and petition signature at a time.

These kids still want to change the world, but adults often fail to prepare them for long-term commitment and sacrifice. Fortunately, there are lots of ways kids can feel like they’re making a difference without leaving their laptop screen.

If you’d like to go deeper, I share some solutions to this challenge in my latest book, Artificial Maturity: Helping Kids Meet the Challenge of Becoming Authentic Adults.

Obviously, technology is not going away, nor do we want it to. The problems our world suffers with, however, cannot all be solved with an iPad. We must find ways to get kids out from behind the screen and into the real world.

What is a Slacktivist?