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Online activism: passive or encouraging?

The radio interview presented near the end of class on Wednesday about “Slacktivism” got me thinking about the role of social media in how activism is done today. As someone very interested in the non-profit sector of PR, I’ve always thought of social media as an extremely useful tool for the non-profit sector to embrace when spreading the word about certain causes. However I need to agree with Evgeny Morozov, when he speaks of the implications of online activism. While social media can help increase awareness about organizations and fundraising efforts, how can support be measured online? Of course if your particular Facebook group reaches a high number of members, it can be said that those members are aware of the organization/cause. However, are those members active? Are they donating money? Are they volunteering?

For me personally, I try to limit the number of causes I support online because there are so many organizations doing such great things, and as a student I am limited in how I can show my support. I feel like its up to whoever is maintaining the site to make sure they are doing what they can to help motivate the members to get involved. This could be done through providing volunteer applications, keep members up to date about fundraising events, and how they can donate money online. Evgeny Morozov also brought the point of peer to peer influence, and how some online users support certain causes if their friends are. When you see a friend sign up for a certain group, it does encourage you to check it out and see what the group is all about. This should be something that organizations take advantage of, rather then look down upon, in my opinion. In the end, awareness online is better then no awareness at all.

Tying in with the participation aspect of social media, we always need to consider who is actually participating in online activism efforts. We need to consider those members that do not have access, and those that may not know how to properly use social media tools. We need to utilize the members that will actually contribute, and learn to keep them interested but we should also be pro-active in motivation the more passive supporters, and not see them as only a number. With that in mind we should think of social media as a useful alternate tool to use to recruit support, but certainly not a substitute.  

Thoughts?

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May 24, 2009 - Posted by | Comment on Course Material

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