Armchair advocates and social media

by Peppi-Emilia Airike on October 14, 2013

in Uncategorized

In today’s 21st century world, media audiences are more active than in the earlier decades, and they are now also seen as media users, participants and consumers (Lievrouw, 2011; Mandiberg, 2012). The strict line between media producers and consumers has indeed become blurred (Mandiberg, 2012). The new media’s ‘bottow-up’ landscape has created new possibilities for interaction and alternative expression among activists and different groups that challenge the mainstream views (Lievrouw, 2011). Blogs, websites, wikis and social media sites, among others, allow different groups create and sustain communities, become known and gain more visibility, give voice and a platform for alternative and marginal views, and resist and confront the dominant and mainstream politics, power and media culture (Lievrouw, 2011).


Photo source: lizadonnelly

Social media refers to new media websites and applications that are used for social networking. Examples of these sites are Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and YouTube.  In the context of global development and social change, social media sites have a possibility to increase civil democratic participation, allow people to engage in dialogue on important issues, challenge the mainstream discourses, let people to join groups that advocate important causes, and motivate people to become online activists raising an awareness on salient topics.

More and more common people now engage and participate in issues related to development and social change. Participation and engagement are two close but distinct concepts. Engagement refers to “a mobilized, focused attention on some object” (Dahlgren, 2006, p. 24). Engagement is a prerequisite for participation, but participation is a step further, and it refers to more than a mere feeling a person has. Participation always involves activity in some degree (Dahlgren, 2006). There is a wide spectrum of different types of activities and participation methods, and they range from Facebook likes and Youtube videos to taking part in so-called social media revolutions.

Term Armchair Advocate  refers to a “global citizen who uses social media to educate, fundraise and advocate for the issues that matter most. Ideally, an Armchair Advocate uses innovative ways to move people from the comfort of their couch to action in their communities” (Armchair Advocates, 2013). Individual people, different organizations and also companies use the web and social media to move people from their armchair to real action and invest in global causes.

Some of the new terms in relation to Armchair Advocates are:

  • online fundraising — online philanthropy, i.e. supporting and finding money for good causes. The web now allows anyone, anywhere, donate with a mouse click or smartphone screen tap.
  • digital advocacy — the use of digital technology to contact, inform, and mobilize a group of concerned people around an issue or cause.
  • pictivism — changing your profile picture according to the cause.
  • slacktivism — actions performed online in support of a political or social cause but regarded as requiring little time or involvement, such as clicking the ‘like’ button.

Do you consider yourself as an Armchair Advocate? What do you think about the possibilities social media offers for these advocates? Please share your thoughts below.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Sofia Hafdell October 17, 2013 at 11:43 am

WikiHow has published a “quick guide” on “How to Become an Armchair Activist” in 6 steps: For the most effective advocating, it says, a transition from the online exposure to real-life action is necessary. This again reminds us of the blurred lines between the online and the offline, and the power in combining the two. Advocating in person may be more effective in empowering social change? Starting your advocating via social media is, nonetheless, a good start.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: