You call that a protest, Facebook?

Will signing your name to a Facebook group change anything?


OK, Facebook protest. Show us what you can do.

Two weeks ago, in a 2K9 year-end review, I asked that we cool it on the FB protests. This was before nearly 40,000 users (and counting) signed up for an anti-prorogue, anti-Harper group called Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament.
Even so, I stand by my view that Facebook protests fail to capture anyone’s imagination, and don’t end up doing much good.
Though I’d love to be proven wrong in this instance, I think adding your name to a Facebook protest is a quick and easy way to feel like you’ve done something to help the cause, and then continue on your way. It takes no energy, no commitment.
If there’s to be any meaningful change, if we are to stop the PM from diminishing government, it surely takes more than clicking on a Facebook widget. Doesn’t it?
I mean that’s why there’s already a Facebook group called Canadians For Proroguing Parliament – it takes but a second to do.
Not coincidentally, the last time Harper took Parliament off the tracks, I similarly stated that the online protests weren’t working. “There is no Internet shortcut to peace, order and good government,” was what I wrote at the time.

Make no mistake, the Internet can be a powerful agent of change. See Barack Obama’s election, AppsForChange, Chinese netizen activism, Iran’s Twitter revolt, or, locally, OpenTO.

But all those took effort, ideas, action. Photoshopping a picture of the Peace Tower does not offer any of that.

Obviously, I prefer the activist approach.

Jesse Hirsh, CBC’s admirable tech columnist, has a terrific post urging action in the form of creativity and humour. It’s a good way to take the cause more viral but also keep it effective. Maclean’s Andrew Coyne is advocating MPs to show up at Parliament anyway. Another idea with a least an ounce of weight to it. (Interestingly also from Coyne: “the 38,000 plus who have subscribed to that facebook page are indicative of very little: most, I would bet, are opposition partisans.”)

But perhaps signing the Facebook group is merely a first step, a baby step. Maybe in a month, 40K protest signees will storm Parliament Hill, or something else – anything else – that has a chance of actually affecting change.
That would be something.
Until then, I’ll say it again: Facebook protests are not protests, or at least they’re incredibly lazy ones.[rssbreak]

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