You, Too, Can Be a Political Slacktivist

Bridge the divide between your favorite local greenways and Washington’s Beltway (or your local statehouse) in just 140 characters.

By Katie Boué May 31, 2016

#ParticipitoryDemocracy

Whether it’s protecting access to outdoor recreation in your local community or raising your voice to oppose the federal land heist, part of being an outdoorist is advocating for the places you play. But, you might be thinking, how do I raise my single voice above the noise? The answer is simple: join a chorus. In the digital age, social media is one of the most powerful—not to mention inexpensive and efficient—ways to amplify your voice.

There’s actually a term for it: “slacktivism.” The term and the concept have earned enthusiastic adopters and harsh critics in the past several years. Our friends at Outdoor Alliance recently posted this blog, which rebuts the criticism by outlining the many ways that social media “slacktivism” provides an influential platform, especially for outdoor advocacy.

We couldn’t agree more. Since ramping up our social media presence in late 2014, OIA has seen big results, especially in developing relationships with representatives and making the outdoor industry voice heard through Twitter.

During our annual Capitol Summit in Washington, D.C., we encouraged attendees to use the #CapitolSummit hashtag to document their experiences lobbying on The Hill. By the end of the two-day event, there were 268 Tweets by 77 unique users tagged #CapitolSummit. The content stream contained quotes from keynote speakers, photos of outdoor executives meeting in congressional offices and powerful expressions of the importance of getting involved in D.C. With total impressions reaching nearly 1 million views, the #CapitolSummit campaign spread widely across our audiences and those of our members’.

Beyond issue-specific outreach, social media offers outdoor enthusiasts an unprecedented opportunity to create connections with our elected representatives. Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA) is a strong social media ally for the outdoor industry, and after OIA connected with him on social media about a hike he took on the Appalachian Trail, he sent us a photo from the trail—just because. It’s a great sign to us that he’s aware of our support and wants to maintain the connection. Humanizing our elected officials helps us understand them as everyday outdoorists who enjoy getting out in nature just as much as we do.

 

Here are a few of the ways to use social media to connect with policymakers:

  • Get to know your lawmakers. Find out who your local elected officials are, and follow them on social media. Many have a robust presence on Twitter and regularly update their followers on a wide range of issues. Social media is an excellent way to stay informed on the topics you care about.
  • Voice your opinion on important issues. Let your local representative know about the topics you’re concerned about. It can be as simple as echoing support or expressing disappointment. Backing your sentiments up with personal stories and anecdotes will really drive your message home and help your elected officials understand that you’re not blidly jumping aboard the bandwagon; you have a first-person connection to the issue.
  • Say ‘thank you.’ Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) took a stand to support LWCF, and the Pacific Crest Trail Association thanked him publicly on Twitter, sharing a photo of an outdoorist enjoying the public lands Blumenauer is helping to protect. The photo provided evidence of the immediate impact Blumenauer’s work in D.C. is having on his constituents.
  • Demonstrate your dedication to advocacy. Are you out there raising awareness, meeting with decision-makers, or even just slapping a bumper sticker on your car to voice your stance on outdoor issues? Snap a photo, and upload it to social–like American Alpine Club did during a lobbying trip to D.C. Tag your local representatives involved on the issue, and show them that you’re on the ground supporting their work.
  • Amplify your representatives’ good work. When Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) tweets about the importance of LWCF, you can help spread her content and show your support by ‘liking’ and ‘retweeting’.