Sunday, 5 December 2010

Facebook Activism

As much as I try to avoid facebook, I do find myself checking it almost every day. This weekend, I’ve been watching as more and more people switch their profile picture to their favourite cartoon character and eventually was faced with almost a whole page of childhood memories. It was interesting to see what everyone had selected; a character with the same name, a similar haircut or a childhood pet giving an insight into how we picked our favourites.

The idea behind this was part of a campaign by the NSPCC to stop violence against children. It’s nice to see so many people supporting the campaign but I do question in what way this helped the NSPCC. Raising awareness is the first step, but people need to take action to really benefit these charities, by donating either time or money.

Malcolm Gladwell wrote an article for the New Yorker about Facebook and social activism a month or so ago which made for interesting reading and caused a ripple in the media. He reinforces a benefit of social networking in that it’s our acquantainces, not our friends, who are our greatest source of new ideas and information.

But he also makes the following point:

“The Facebook page of the Save Darfur Coalition has 1,282,339 members, who have donated an average of nine cents apiece. The next biggest Darfur charity on Facebook has 22,073 members, who have donated an average of thirty-five cents. Help Save Darfur has 2,797 members, who have given, on average, fifteen cents. “

He emphasizes that social networking encourages people to sign up to causes by not asking too much of them (or in a sense, asking nothing of them), or in his words:

“Facebook activism succeeds not by motivating people to make a real sacrifice but by motivating them to do the things that people do when they are not motivated enough to make a real sacrifice.”

The NSPCC are currently not recruiting volunteers but it’s worth keeping an eye out over the next few months to see what roles become available and in the meantime, we can each send them a fiver. It took me about as much time as it took to google “Mysterious Cities of Gold” and change my profile pic.

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