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Are viral social campaigns getting arm-chair activists onto the field?

Reddit has been the source of inspiration for many things across the world, from being a platform for great discussions with global leaders to all things fancy and silly! Its most recent #trashtag trend became a viral campaign on social media where people from various corners of the world began cleaning up the planet. While the idea of cleaning up public places isn’t new, this viral #trashtag trend has ended up bringing a positive change for spotlight seekers in the age of selfies. When the campaign took off, several people began uploading before and after photos of cleaned up spots. On the flipside, this trend has also been drawing flak with fake posts popping up all over the Internet. 
 
Campaigns related to social causes which go viral on social media also need to be simple and make people feel empowered to win ‘Internet points’. “The presence of social media platforms boosts a campaign, gives it traction and increases the reach. In the absence of that, these campaigns could be restricted to friends, family members and relatives. The content and intent hold the key,” adds Satya Pamula, vice-president, Integral Advisory. 
 
Interestingly, the #trashtag campaign or India’s very own Swacch Bharat campaign too, has brought arm-chair activists out of their comfort zone and onto the field. According to Anuradha Thota, an entrepreneur, people have always been attention seekers and enjoy revalidation of thoughts, connecting to like-minded people and getting recognition. 
 
Additionally, social media platforms provide spotlight seekers with an opportunity to absolve themselves of guilt pangs, if any. “People have become more vocal, articulate and the arguments get fine tuned because of the alternate thoughts and questions. Their thoughts now need more research, more churn and more proofs to get accepted and to withstand alternate thoughts. Not all with an opinion, can take it forward towards constructive steps,” she opines.
 
When asked if these could progress into long-term campaigns offline, Pamula adds that being associated with the social cause for long, the recognition it brings to them from peers, friends and other groups will definitely see them leading from the front and create an impact. But, Vinay Kuyya, a Youtuber, says campaigns on social causes don’t hold much steam online. “People could do it for a while until the fad fades out. But, beyond that, it doesn’t help. Many opine that could be a difficult task to sustain these movement for the long-term. 
 
“All spotlight seekers may not be able to categorically hold the stand for long and withstand test of time and patience. They might not be able to put additional effort to take a movement forward. A social movement would require long term sustenance, sincere motive rather than just attention seeking. Some of them may be able to take it forward but a very few,” says Anuradha. 
 
While these campaigns definitely create a “feel-good factor” for people to show off about their interest in social cause, Vinay says: “If someone believes in a cause, they would be committed to it and do it anyway, with or without the recognition. He adds that, even from a trend perspective on Youtube or social media, such campaigns do not keep people engaged for long as it requires an effort from their side as well.  

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