Joining online 'causes' helpful, but no excuse for real action
November 20, 2010 7:24 AM
With all the hype about online social networks, it's no wonder that popular advocacy groups are taking a beating by being labeled "clicktivists."
Micah White, a contributing editor at Adbusters wrote, "political engagement becomes a matter of clicking a few links. In promoting the illusion that surfing the web can change the world, clicktivism is to activism as McDonalds is to a slow-cooked meal.
It may look like food, but the life-giving nutrients are long gone." Yes, It's true that you can join a cause on Facebook, follow an advocacy group in twitter and simultaneously support those groups with a click of a button.
Joining causes online will by no means replace activists like those that climbed the Golden Gate Bridge in March 2008 to protest the Beijing Olympics. But, thanks to the web, the group's message -- that China was unworthy of hosting the Olympics due to the country's disturbing human-rights violations -- went viral online, and people from all over the country took to the streets in protest.
Micah Whites goes even further by claiming that "exchanging the substance of activism for reformist platitudes (clicktivists) damage every genuine political movement they touch."
It's doubtful that Greenpeace activists, updating online via their 116,285 Twitter followers every hour, feel the same as Whites. Many have criticized "generation Y" of being too Internet dependent, assuming that the 21st century lives online only for fun.
Granted, this generation is better off than past centuries in many ways but life hasn't changed much. Young soldiers fight wars that many oppose, social welfare is drained, racism is rampant and government officials are corrupt.
We have the same problems but a new generation -- one that is utilizing new and innovative strategies to promote change.
And it's not just activists that are acknowledging the importance of online presence. President Obama's victory over Hillary Clinton was credited to his investment in gaining online support by using new media campaigns and building strong web presences through social media tools.
On most social networks, you can join a cause with the click of a button. It won't remove a corrupt government, abolish animal abuse, or ban nuclear weapons worldwide but it will get people's attention.
Online activism can't ever replace the people that march on city hall demanding policy change or protesting corrupt politicians. But raising awareness online allows people to support and contribute faster.
Online causes don't replace real life activism, but they do help in the mass sharing of information while building stronger networks of support.
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