Sometimes people get really down on online activities as not really impacting the world. A click or a post or a Like doesn't amount to real change, they say. I disagree.
I think the internet is a powerful force for real change in the world. I think that these real changes can happen in two main ways (although I'm sure there are others). First, I think one of the main obstacles to overcoming injustice and oppression is that people are uninformed. I want to believe, and I do believe, that once people know about an injustice they will want to do something to stop it. And the internet is a revolutionary for consciousness-raising. By sharing a link, clicking a Like, sending an email, or commenting on a news story, you can give information to hundreds of people-- quickly, easily, and nearly for free. That has never before been possible. And I believe that saying something is doing something. Consciousness-raising is real activism.
Secondly, I think the internet has the potential not just to give people more information about injustice but also more information about how they can get involved in stopping it. Sometimes this means giving people easy ways to writing letters to congress members; sometimes this means encouraging people to voting in a certain way; sometimes this means give people the tools or the space to have uncomfortable but necessary conversations with people about tough topics, and sometimes this means providing people with the opportunity to donate or loan money. I think all of these actions are real activism with real impact.
In fact, I saw online activism produce real results just yesterday. A friend of mine is a teacher in St. Louis. She teaches at a low-income school where her middle school students struggle with number sense, sometimes not really understanding counting, telling time, and use of money. She works really hard to help these students, but she needed some help buying supplies and math related manipulatives for them. So, she posted a project on DonorsChoose.org. Yesterday her project received full funding, and she will be able to purchase the items she needs. DonorsChoose is a website that connects teachers in the US with donors, so that they can purchase the supplies they need. Go to their website and check it out. So many good projects to invest in. So many good students to invest in! Seriously, go check it out.
Another great online activist organization is Kiva.org. It isn't a donations website, but a system of loans (micro-loans technically). You can pick a project from around the world to invest in, and there is a timeline for when the entrepreneur will pay you back. I've joined the site and am invested in helping a woman purchase clothing to sell in her store in El Salvador. This is a great site to get you thinking globally about activism. Go check out their site, and see if there is a project you can invest in.
Last on the list of places I'm currently involved is Women for Women International. On this site, you are connected with a woman somewhere in the world who needs to be sponsored as a "sister". I am still in the process of being connected with my sister, so I can't give more details about the experience yet, but I'm looking forward to it, and I've heard really good things about this organization. And I believe that this will produce real change in the life of the woman I'm connected with, and in the lives of her family members and her community. I believe this is real activism.
If you are interested in online activism, you might also check out some accessible and quick reads:
@ is for Activism by Joss Hands (which I haven't actually read but need to)
So, what do you think about online activism? Does it seem to you to produce real change?
Do you feel that knowing about ways to get involved with activism encourages you to actually get involved? How do you feel about using site like Facebook or Twitter for activist causes? Have you experienced conversations on these sites as helpful or harmful? Are you involved with any online activist organizations? I'd love to know your thoughts and experiences!