Thursday, April 3, 2008

Internet Activism through Facebook

The idea of internet activism as presented by Richard Kahn and Douglas Kellner in the essay “Oppositional Politics and the Internet: A Critical/Reconstructive Approach” unfortunately made me think about Facebook. Ah yes, the omnipresent Facebook. It is an online social networking “tool”. It seems like everyday that I get invited to a group protesting something or supporting something. It has become very easy for me to be able to appear to be a very socially conscious person. All I need to do is search for these types of groups and click “join”. There. Now I can attract all sorts of hot Greenpeace babes right? Right?
…Maybe not. Exactly how much does being part of a group is actually group work? Although this statement is completely assumed, it seems like people just can’t bear to click ‘ignore invitation’ when the group is about saving lives, or helping cute little animals. So instead they become part of a group designed to organize a large amount of people into taking action.
Does this benefit the cause or harm it?One could argue that either way more people become informed of the chosen issue and that’s what is important. Without public knowledge of an issue it would be impossible to create change. I must admit, I myself have become aware of social issues that I had not known of before being invited to join the group. This itself is a form of internet activism because there are many issues strategically not being publicized for fear of public outcry. I have recently been invited into a group called “Keep your censoring hands off Canadian film and TV! No to Bill C-10” protesting the hidden legislation within bill C-10 allowing the Heritage Minister to withhold tax credits to productions deemed against public policy.This is an example of a positive use of Facebook for internet activism because the few who noticed the hidden legislation made everybody aware of an issue that hadn’t even been discussed in the House of Commons.
But are these pleas falling on deaf ears? I wonder how many of the people who joined the previously mentioned group actually wrote letters to MPs voicing their discontent and how many just clicked ‘join’ and never visited the group again. It would be very unfortunate if the latter was the majority. Public image on Facebook can unfortunately be a reason for such apathy.
This is why I don’t mind clicking ‘ignore’ every once in a while. The word ignore makes it sound particularly bad when the group is for such things as peace, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s what will happen. I might not be part of the group, but I now know the implications of things such as Bill C-10. But I also don’t feign to be an active protester, which is why if I know I won’t be doing something to aid the cause I won’t join the group.
For whoever’s reading this, this might not be what you feel, but then again you might not be part of Facebook and don’t even know what Bill C-10 is.


Richard said...

i like what you have to say about facebook politics both pro and con and your example is a compelling one. good thinking!

I. Reilly said...

this is one of your best posts. i think it's important to think about what constitutes "progressive" politics in the age of facebook. what exactly constitutes raising awareness? what kind of information is made available to the internet publics that join? is this information trustworthy, accurate, verifiable? or is it "fake news", misinformation, or just propaganda. what does it mean to be politically active online and how does one translate Internet activism into social change? these are all questions worth investigating in greater detail.

keep writing,