“We don’t have a choice of whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it.”

-Erik Qualman 

Slacktivism is a case study that highlights the challenges of using social media to engage youth. The following are a few of the challenges of using social media for youth engagement: youth might feel like they have an exaggerated sense of their contribution to a cause; the issues can be oversimplified; organizers and youth have varying degrees of knowledge and skill with specific platforms; platforms and online tools are perpetually changing and it is difficult to keep up with each new method; it is difficult to track and measure public engagement via social media beyond ‘views’ and ‘likes.’

Social media tools are ever-changing and dynamic communication vehicles. As one educator who works primarily in youth education shared, “I have often been asked by other practitioners about how we ‘do’ social media. I think that many organizations realize that the potential for social media to augment their activities but are not always familiar with the tools and platform that are available – and this can be intimidating.”

It is also increasingly challenging to gauge real attendance numbers or support for an event from online event posts. How many of us have organized an event where lots of people have indicated they are attending on Facebook but significantly fewer actually attends? A lesson to be learned from Facebook events is that ‘yes’ means ‘maybe’ and ‘maybe’ means ‘no.’

The concept of slacktivism describes the idea that people are increasingly taking small personally satisfying acts in support of an issue or social cause, that have little or no practical effect other than making that individual feel good. An example of this would be indicating attending a Facebook event in support of an issue or social cause but not actually attending and participating in the event. This false sense of contribution to a cause is another challenge of using social media as a tool to effectively engage youth.