But for some reason 97% of my newsfeed is full of it, some days. You know exactly what it’s full of – exhortations on behalf of various causes and conditions, but rather than any kind of meaningful personal appeal or call to action, one is simply advised to share or cut-and-paste if in agreement.
I hate this, and never, ever do as I am told, whatever the cause. Here are the reasons why –
- Call me a rebel, but I don’t like being told what to do or say, and certainly don’t enjoy being guilt-tripped in this way. Neither am I 9 years old and up for ‘doing dares’. This is not how one adult should attempt to influence the behaviour of another. And where did that randomly repeated statistic even come from?
- It might be supporting the development of a Like Farm – these are deliberate exploitations of the good causes they purport to represent, and in the best case simply line the pockets of people who flip Facebook Pages for huge profits (worst cases link these transactions to more diverse crime networks). This is most likely to be the case where an image, meme or infographic is shared incidentally, as the likes and shares contribute to the reach of that specific Facebook property.
- The sheer lack of personalism or thought involved in the entire thing, which is so profoundly depressing. So, the fact you actually took about 2 seconds to copy and paste a paragraph of someone else’s words and thoughts, is supposed to make me believe you care deeply about cancer /animal rights/ mental illness/ bullying or whatever? The saddest thing is that a lot of the people I see sharing are people who I am sure genuinely DO feel strongly about the stuff they see going around in this way (although mostly, it has to be said, the causes themselves are indisputable: Do you genuinely need to inform your friends that you hate cancer?) So why not actually say something about how you feel about it, or your experience of it, that demonstrates that care with a bit of sincerity?
- It’s slactivism, pure and simple.
This is I am afraid the ultimate counterargument, to the people who will be wailing right now ‘but it doesn’t do any harm, and I am RAISING AWARENESS by sharing this stuff!’
Seriously? Well, I don’t regard myself as abnormally well-informed about the world’s problems, but I can honestly say that I don’t think any one of these identikit paragraphs ever told me anything I didn’t know, or informed me of anything new. I am sure I am not rare amongst my friends to have actually already heard of cancer, diabetes, autism and dialysis, and none of these particular problems are somehow going to loom larger in my consciousness as a result of seeing paragraphs about it pasted on my friends’ Facebook statuses.
In fact the very REAL danger in this event is that people confuse thought with action and somehow comfort themselves into feeling good, that they have helped a cause, somehow engaged with a real-world problem and made a difference… by copying and pasting a Facebook status, or clicking ‘Like’.
This is slactivism, and it is killing fundraising, direct action and genuine social change.
Get my hands dirty, pay money, change my lifestyle? Far easier to do something that doesn’t affect me or cost me one bit, or something I can accommodate without any effort whatsoever – and that will buy off my conscience and actually make it less likely that I will do something that matters. I can save the earth by simply boycotting a particular petrol station for one day? And feel like real campaigner by sharing and retweeting the call to action? Hey, that’s a whole lot easier than actually reviewing and reducing my dependence on fossil fuels, so I am totally in! Far easier too, than getting off my backside and away from my computer and actually doing something.
Now some people would argue that the ease of engagement with this kind of thing on Facebook is getting people to share and spread things who wouldn’t have previously done so, but this is missing the point. If you have ever worked in marketing in any way – and most jobs involve communicating a message of some kind to customers and prospects – you will understand the importance of the call to action, in your message. What action you want someone to take, once they’ve received it. I can think of no examples of anyone in need who has ever actually benefited from the having a copied Facebook status posted about them
When I see people sharing candles on their Facebook walls ‘in solidarity with the people of the Philippines’ it makes my blood run cold, because those sharing are feeling better, because they shared the candle – and it’s too damn easy to stop there. This is not social action, this does nothing to help anyone who has lost their home and loved ones. It just makes you feel part of something on Facebook. I am not saying that everyone hitting ‘share’ is a cynical self-serving evil person trying to deceive their friends, but that a lot of them are probably a bit comforted, even unconsciously, by having done so – and I believe that makes them, even unconsciously, likely to do anything else.
If you want to actually help the victims of Typhoon Haiyan by the way, go to http://www.dec.org.uk/ instead and donate whatever you can.
Next week the rant continues, as we will be looking at some more of my pet hates from the copy-paste school of social media.
Costa Connected, for Costa Blanca News, December 6th 2013 ©Maya Middlemiss, Casslar Consulting SL