There is an endless list of pages on Facebook that claim to further a cause. They’ll contribute $1 to their cause if I like their page. They’ll send a bag of rice to Africa if I share their post. Wow, I better like that page or all those people are going to starve. If I ignore it I’m not interested in helping to end the suffering. Do they really do anything to help? Is my lazy attempt at activism causing change somewhere or would it be better for me to actually get out and do stuff to make a change?
The recent Human Rights Campaign on Facebook saw many people who believe in this to change their profile pictures, clogging news feeds for over 24 hours. It would have reached everyone one way or another (if you haven’t seen this, what rock have you been under?). This campaign has seen the introduction of marriage equality in several US states, New Zealand and France. Could there be a correlation between this campaign and the introduction of marriage equality? There’s every chance that could be the case. It is gaining momentum everywhere. The more people behind something the more chance it has of getting airtime in the mainstream media. Mashable recently reported about the relation between online political engagement and how that translates into “real life”. They found that 18% of social media users surveyed in the US participated in offline political events that they had originally learnt about through social media.
What about the Occupy movement? Reaching its peak in October 2012, 82 countries around the world participated in the movement. The organisers used the internet as a way to reach people, rallying the 99%. In Australia, we thought we’d put our two cents in when we also organised several Occupy movements. Around 2000 people attended Martin Place in Sydney. Some Reports from Australian media were less than positive about this turnout, using the argument that because Australia has one of the best economies in the world we don’t really have that much to worry about.
We can’t write clicktivism off straight away. Spanish sociologist, Manuel Castells says “[online] movements raise awareness and embrace and encourage people”. So why can’t we feel better because we liked a page on Facebook? In my opinion, the more momentum a cause receives from popular media, the more chance it has of making a change. I agree that liking a page on Facebook or changing your profile picture definitely won’t solve the problem, but there’s every chance that someone who has the ability to assist in a useful and meaningful way will help. They always say there’s strength in numbers, if enough people are behind a cause and willing to get their hands dirty then there is no reason to why a problem can’t be solved with Facebook.
Dispatches from the information wars: online activism on the move –http://www.crikey.com.au/2011/07/29/dispatches-from-the-information-wars-online-activism-on-the-move/
South Africa: Can Online Activism Change the World –http://allafrica.com/stories/201304171268.html
Pew: Online Political Engagement Can Lead to Offline Activism – http://mashable.com/2013/04/25/pew-internet-politics-activism/
‘Slacktivism’ vs ‘snarktivism’: how do you take your online activism? –http://theconversation.com/slacktivism-vs-snarktivism-how-do-you-take-your-online-activism-13180