Activism for the Inactive

ActivismOr … how I eased my conscience by curing cancer, stopping child molestation, bringing down a brutal dictator, and wishing my mom happy birthday all in less than thirty seconds.

While having a delicious burger and fries from Five Guys and Fries with a young co-worker the conversation drifted to his social media inundation with promotions for the movie Kony 2012. The documentary movie is designed to put pressure on a brutal African dictator for his role in enslaving children for use as soldiers and sex workers.

I’m not a low picking fruit sort of fellow so I’m not going to spend any time talking about what a vile character is this Kony fellow nor express outrage at his activities. What I question is how much does social media activism actually accomplish? Does it help a cause or hurt it?

I’ll end the suspense right away, I don’t know. The way to find out is to put some metrics to it. Compare similar causes one of whom is highly publicized on the social networks and one who is not and determine who raises the most money and gets the most volunteer hours. See if the highly publicized causes are filled with fraudulent behavior more so than those less publicized.

But, I will say this. I get a post about how someone’s family member is fighting cancer almost weekly and would I please repost if I want to support them. I don’t. I have mentioned my own family’s trouble with that terrible disease here in my blog but I haven’t posted any support messages on Facebook or asked anyone to do the same. I did donate money to a chess marathon for breast cancer by Goose.

I see Social Media posting is as pretending to do something without actually doing anything. My young friend would call those who post such things and feel good about themselves Brazilian Hipsters. He tried to explain the concept to me but I think I’m too old. It’s apparently a terrible insult. I do agree with the concept that if you make a few posts and say, “I’ve helped” then you are in need of some insults.

Still, I’m not totally opposed to posting on social networks if it brings money or volunteer time to that worthy cause. Beware that those who intend to defraud are well in tune with the Social Media phenomenon and I’d be somewhat wary of donating to the cause celebre of the moment.

Instead of reposting, commenting, or Liking a post; donate some money, or better yet donate some time to a worthwhile cause. One problem with donating money is you have to be certain the charity is actually giving most of that money to those it purports to help. There is a tremendous amount of fraud in the charity business, fodder for another post I think, and you have to do your due diligence.

So, not much outrage here in the end. But don’t fool yourself. By Liking, Tweeting, Commenting, Digging, Stumbling or the others of its ilk you aren’t actually doing anything to help. If you feel strongly about a cause then think about investing some time and truly making a difference.

And for those of you, like my young friend, annoyed by an endless stream of requests to help one cause or another; don’t worry about not reposting. You’re not bad person.

Now get out there and Like, Digg, Pinterest, Stumble, Comment, PlusOne, and otherwise publicize my blog! It’s not for a good cause, it’s for me!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist