Beyond Slacktivism: The Cases of K-pop Fans and Tiktok Teens

Tara Shafie


With recent technology and social media, new forms of political activism have become widespread. Young people in particular, have been willing to embrace these new forms of activism. This paper examines new trends in digital activism through qualitative observations of Twitter and Tiktok, and three case studies of young people’s digital activism. In the first case study, Korean pop music (K-pop) fans thwarted police’s attempts to identify protesters by crashing police apps. In the second, they rendered white supremacist hashtags useless, by drowning out the hashtags with their own tweets. Finally, K-pop fans, along with Tiktok users, played a prank which humiliated the Trump reelection campaign. The study expands upon the life cycle effect and generational effects theories of political behavior, and develops a continuum with which to conceptualize and understand the nature of activism. It concludes that digital activism is characteristic of Gen Z, and has real-world impacts. This article pushes back on the notion that digital activism is mere “slacktivism” (low effort token support of a social movement). Instead, it argues that activism evolves along with technology and time, and that digital activism’s real-world impacts can be just as effective as conventional political activism.

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