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Some slacktivism is probably way more effective than other slacktivism, so somebody should do some prioritization research to find the best slacktivism techniques. (1)

For example, I almost always like EA job ads on Facebook and Twitter because if I do, this leads to more people seeing the ad, which leads to EA orgs getting more and better applicants, which leads to more impact.

This seems like an exceptionally good return on investment per effort (which is essentially zero), so more people should be doing it, which is why I’m sharing it here.

However, this is just a really quick conclusion with very little thought put into it. For example, how often should you like job ads? Is it better to do it for all of them or have a more complex strategy? Is it different on different social media platforms?

What about totally different actions? For example, are there ways to help with organization’s fundraisers? What about sharing certain activities, like going vegan or taking the Giving What We Can pledge? How about using profile frames?

I’d love to see a writeup of a more in-depth analysis about the different ways to do “effective slacktivism”, or links to existing work in the area. I bet there is a lot of low-hanging fruit here and if somebody took the time to do some prioritization work on it, that could end up increasing the impact of the community for a long time.

This could be an especially good research project for somebody who’s considering getting into prioritization research work. It could give a low-risk, low-cost way to get a taste for the work while also providing a tangible, immediate benefit to the world.

As such, we are putting out a bounty of $100 USD for anybody who writes a post doing prioritization research on slacktivism that gets over 30 upvotes, subject to our discretion.

What are your ideas for small actions that could be high ROI?


(1) I would like to nominate this sentence for the Most EA Opening Line contest. I would also like somebody to make that contest because I would find it amazing.

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Forms of slacktivism that I personally do all the time, which seem high-impact relative to the level of effort/willpower invested:

  • Commenting on this very forum! Participating in online communities (especially as a commenter, rather than a top-level poster) is pretty low-effort and often feels like fun rather than like work, but it helps build the overall sophistication of EA ideas. Here is Wei Dai's highly acclaimed LessWrong post on "forum participation as a research strategy".
  • Mentioning EA topics in conversation when relevant, as a way of introducing new people to the subject and hopefully normalize some of EA's focus areas and thinking styles.
  • Encouraging people's efforts ("I'm really glad you made this" / "this is cool" / etc) and linking people to other relevant resources and communities ("Hey, you should share your idea with group X" / "Here are some links I've seen to other people's work on your similar topic").

The Humane League's Fast Action Network involves calling or emailing companies to pressure them to adopt higher welfare standards. Compared to other sorts of digital activism, there are probably fewer people doing this and it is more impactful. I've always thought of calling companies to be something that's too much like "hard work" for me to feel like doing, but if you'd like, you can probably call it slacktivism.

Calling someone on the phone isn't slacktivism. I've been involved in efforts outside effective altruism and phone call or other campaigns that are really effective would not succeed if anyone was "slacking." I went into how we need better language than slacktivism to clarify this subject matter in this comment. Fast Action Network might be between slacktivism and effortful online activism.

So what exactly do you mean by slacktivism? 

Someone I know in the community pinged me about this article, so I presume I was meant to provide feedback. I'm going to ask what kind of feedback I could give that was in mind but here is the first thing that comes to mind for "effective slacktivism" and a starting point for researching it. 

There needs to be a better word than "slacktivism" to describe what any of us are really trying to discuss. Slacktivism doesn't only mean easy, simple, quick tasks one can do with almost no effort. Another meaning is that it's a kind of lazy virtue signaling someone will do so they can receive status for being a good person without really having to do anything to earn it. This ambiguity and the meanings laden with stigma don't lend itself to thinking about how to make online activism super cost-effective. The next step is to think about how to operationalize what you mean by effective and/or ineffective online activism, or whatever. That can start with determining the qualities or features of effective online activism being sought:

  • Simple
  • Easy
  • Quick
  • Cost-Effective
  • Scalable
  • Neglected, Tractable, etc

One form of slacktivism I have personally engaged in is sending superchats related to EA topics to various YouTube livestreamers. Doing this may potentially introduce Effective Altruism and topics related to it to hundreds of people at once.

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