By Reece M. Krantz ’16
In recent social movements, online networks have become mass communication tools and vehicles for mobilization.
Online services have created a superficial and often arbitrary mental state between man and the world’s plaguing problems by scaling them to clicks or “likes.”
Websites such as Facebook and Twitter are being widely used by activists and citizens to relay information that is not always accessible through traditional media freely and easily.
It seems that the emergence of new technologies has formed a new forum for public debate.
This phenomenon also presents a new and innovative way to allocate talent, unite aspirations, spur immediate and mass mobilization and promote change on a grand scale.
Strengthening the link between the Internet and social participation seems a more and more essential condition for a successful movement.
Not surprisingly, many activism campaigns have been steered toward the Internet community.
Trends like the Ice Bucket Challenge and infamous Kony 2012 are examples of online activism that has received global recognition.
The main issue with ideas such as these is that they rely on the online community solely to spread awareness, and being fickle is also something social media sites do very well.
These trends become popular via ‘’upvotes,” ’’likes’’ or ‘’favorites’’ depending on what social media service or website they are procured from, even though they all technically perform the same function.
Here arises the substantial error hard-coded into online activism: These votes are usually as far as people go to promote the charity or cause.
People can see a banner for breast cancer and ‘like’ it, then 15 minutes later completely forget about the charity in question. This leads to a delusory pattern when people see campaigns for good and they assume one like is as good as cash or a physical representational protest.
A good example of this futility is found in the project “Save Darfur.” Focused around the recent genocide and civil crimes in Sudan’s western region of Darfur, the group raised awareness largely through Facebook.
They have, in fact, raised over $700 billion, most through private investors and other organizations.
It is hard to not suggest that public awareness has contributed a good chunk of that, right?
Researchers looked at the “Save Darfur” Facebook group and found that, despite having 1.2 million members, the group only raised $100,000, according to Onthemedia.org. That works out to a donation rate of 0.24 percent.
As University of North Carolina Professor Zeynep Tufekci points out in an article from Onthemedia.org:
“I’m convinced by these findings that ‘Save Darfur’ cannot convert clicks to donations, though I’m not clear on how more donations would have allowed Darfur to be saved, and it’s possible many participants felt the same way,” professor Tufekci wrote in an article.
Therefore, an arbitrary response to an organization that is one based off clicks is not conducive to the success of an effort.
Clicks create a superficial ideology between man and the issues he is presented with, but rarely leads to direct change.
This creates a very dangerous mindset. When online activism triumphs physical and meaningful activism, nothing can truly be accomplished.
The next time you are faced with an online organization asking for awareness, go ahead, like or favorite their post.
But make sure you actually do something meaningful to further the cause or issue you are endorsing.
Ignorance, after all, is the fall of man.