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Six ways to avoid being a 'slacktivist' on Spirit Day 

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On Oct. 18, GLAAD (a national nonprofit that works toward LGBTQ acceptance through media monitoring) will promote its annual Spirit Day, during which it asks supporters to wear purple to raise awareness about the prevalent bulling of LGBTQ youth. The directive echoes that of many awareness days promoted by organizations and associations throughout the year for various causes. Wear red for cardiovascular disease on Feb. 1. Wear orange for gun violence awareness on June 1.

According to a 2015 article in The Atlantic that specifically examined awareness days in regard to disease: “Awareness days do seem to be on the rise, by at least a couple measures — the researchers found that more than 145 bills including the words “awareness day” have been introduced in U.S. Congress since 2005, a huge leap compared with previous years.”

We're inundated by these awareness campaigns in the U.S., but it's hard to measure what they actually accomplish.

Thursday, I might take a selfie in a purple shirt and share it with the hashtag #SpiritDay on Twitter or Facebook. But will that actually change anything? Will my followers donate to the cause or make steps to volunteer at LGBTQ youth centers because they saw some people in their feeds wearing purple? I don’t know for sure, but I doubt it.

So why do we do it? Awareness days, like those Facebook filters that make your profile photo a rainbow for a week, have been called “slacktivism,” the bare minimum you can do to show support for causes you believe in. Even when there’s a donation component involved in such campaigns (GLAAD suggests donating to their organization on Spirit Day), not everyone who participates can or will put money toward the cause.

What awareness days accomplish, then, isn’t so much accruing donations or driving traffic to websites (though according to The Atlantic, some organizations do see that kind of participation). Rather, when someone not-in-the-know sees their friends and peers supporting a cause, they’re more likely to support it, too.

But participating in an awareness day in hopes that your friends will be encouraged to join in isn’t quite enough. If you wear purple on Spirit Day on Oct. 18 here are a few things you can do to prevent the bullying of LGBTQ youth on Oct. 19, and after:

  • Donate to GLAAD or GLSEN nationally, or Inside Out Youth Services locally.
  • Ask Inside Out about volunteer opportunities.
  • Organize an event to educate the community about bullying prevention. (resources available on stopbullying.gov, where you can also find resources specifically related to LGBTQ youth)
  • Learn about your local school district's policies on bullying, and reach out to the school board if they seem insufficient.
  • Talk to the kids in your life about bullying, especially bullying in regard to sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • Most importantly: Educate yourself about the issue. The best way to help any cause is to learn about it and share it with others. Real change happens through conversation.

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