merchimerch: (Default)
[personal profile] merchimerch
Rant-Man said it very well, but I want to chime in:

The facebook memes that go by every so often do annoy me, not because I have anything about announcing bra color or displaying cartoon characters on facebook, but because of that false feeling of having accomplished something that results from participating in these mass activities.

Rant-Man said that doing so doesn't help out, but opening one's checkbook does. Well yes, but there are other things to be done from the comfort of one's computer that are also effective -- writing congress people about such issues, searching for relevant local organizations where one can help out in person, etc. I don't like the idea that the ONLY way to help child abuse, breast cancer, etc. is to open one's wallet.

And on that score, I see the facebook charity/awareness memes as just another extension of the green/pink/rainbow-washing phenomenon. Buying a pink vacuum will not help find a cure for breast cancer, especially since the paltry 1-5% of profits that are promised to the Susan G. Komen foundation often never even shows up. The same is true with purportedly environmentally friendly products. Has anyone noticed the trend in packaging to label itself "recyclable" in the same spot that other products state their recycled and/or post consumer waste percentage?

Also, it seems like the X-washing practices often obscure certain charitable organizations efforts that are truly effective. The Homeless Garden Project in Santa Cruz is an incredibly worthy cause, and a building owner downtown donated them an empty storefront for the holiday season. In their gift shop, you can buy candles, baking mixes, lavender sachets, etc. that came from their garden and directly benefits the project. It's the kind of charitable (and local) consumption that I'd like to see more of.

All of this preys on our desire to help out and our feelings of disconnectedness. But really, facebook and consumption are not going to contribute to solutions for these complex problems, and I worry that such memes provide a balm for people's charitable impulses that would otherwise be directed to more effective practices.

Date: 2010-12-06 04:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'd agree that relying purely on one's checkbook is not optimal. Hopefully there are ways that people can put time in too. But even someone who only donates money to groups who do something about problem xyz is doing something tangible. As opposed to status-update activism.

In the day or three after 9/11, countless Americans donated blood in gigantic lines all over the country with the idea that "the people in New York might need it". of course it wasn't, but I think there were probably thousands of people who benefitted from the extra supply of blood.

not the intended effect of the donor perhaps, but a very tangible result.

Date: 2010-12-06 04:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I agree that open checkbooks are an important way to change a situation.

I just wanted to make the point that it is not a binary between slacktivism and open checkbook. There are other things that can and should be done as well. I think that lobbying government officials is a very important act, since I want our government to take a larger role in funding research and social programs, rather than relying on the goodwill of the populous.

I was one of the blood donors after 9/11 and I thought exactly that -- extra blood available is never a bad thing.

Date: 2010-12-06 04:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Lobbying governments and otherwise engaging in policy-shaping is an important role. In my mind, one can give of time or money, and the policy engagement falls into "time" for me, though I can understand how some might categorize it differently.

This whole debate reminds me that apathy is perhaps the greatest ongoing threat to our social fabric. These quick feel-good but largely ineffective actions I fear only have the result of taking air out of the balloon: one may have been motivated to do something "tangible" but given an easy way of getting the social recognition of having performed a noble deed, they instead change their facebook photo and leave it at that: they've now done their part. This example excludes those who were not motivated to do anything in the first place, and merely did it because it was zero effort. They are "meh" but the former is a real loss.

Date: 2010-12-06 05:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Well said.

Date: 2010-12-06 06:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

Date: 2010-12-06 06:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I totally agree with your assessment/sentiment here. I actually actively find those things really obnoxious. I tend to console myself by thinking that "well, at least it's showing up as something 'popular' to do, which means the overall awareness of our culture to this issue is improving" but I agree that it's not actually doing anything concrete to help, and could be actively hurting if it provides the soothing balm for the feeling of needing to do something, as you put it.

One thing I wanted to draw your attention to (which I unfortunately don't know much about) that combines this 'social status' thing of showing that you are into a certain cause with actual checkbook action: there is apparently a system or app on facebook for actually donating to charities and having that show up on your profile/status update. I actually haven't seen this myself, because even though I have a facebook account I rarely log in. But a friend of mine is now working for the company that does that particular app or whatever it is. So hopefully that can be a way to move from the 'slacktivism' to something more productive. It's a really interesting idea and I hope it does go somewhere... I'll be interested to see if people really do donate more given the social environment of facebook.


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