10 January 2009

Does Facebook Help?


More and more invitations to join political causes (Groups) appear in my Facebook inbox. I wonder: Does joining a political cause on Facebook do anything? And if not, why do we join them?

I decided to look into three of the Groups friends have joined and invited me to join, and see if any change might happen because of them.

Three Groups

Let's collect 500,000 signatures to support the Palestinians in Gaza currently has under 500,000 members. This site promises "In the upcoming days, we will provide more information about how YOU can make a real difference."So I don't have a lot to go on here but it seems a valid site with officers from all over the (mostly Arab) world, for example, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Indonesia.

I read the most recently posted 3 bulletin board posts: The first one was a guy called John pointing out what pussies the people are who care about this war, and then people calling him names. One response began, "Actually you worthless little piece of shit..."

The second one was a very long post by an Israeli claiming many things including that the Palestinians joining Hamas is what caused the war.

The third one is called I AM WILLING TO GO AND FIGHT FOR MY MUSLIM BROTHER IN GAZA....ARE YOU READY// and is an interesting conversation between Muslims all over the world for and against violence.

Support the Monks' protest in Burma currently has around 400,000 members. They have a "Five Things you can do to help free Burma" list, a way to donate, sign up, get the latest articles, post links and photos, look at a BBC video, and get more information.

On the discussion board, the usual cocktail of intelligent questions, answers, discussion, obnoxious name-calling, and random unrelated or tangentially related posts.

Wow, My Middle Name is Hussein, also! currently has under 200 members. I imagine memberships in this group has dropped off considerably since Obama won. On the other hand you could change your Facebook middle name without joining the group. I don't know of a way to tell whether this group was useful...perhaps it is the reason Obama got elected...

Conclusion (not really)

An obvious benefit of inviting friends to Groups and joining them, even if there is no other, is educational. Assuming that knowing about things, even if you're doing nothing about them, is better than not knowing.

But my main conclusion is that Facebook Groups are helpful as long as you do more than just click "Join." You have to go back to the Group and see what's what, and do something. They hopefully send out calls to action to their members, at least some of whom act on them. Otherwise, being a member of a Group is a hollow gesture (unless just a Group's size somehow affects things, which is unlikely.)

Is clicking "Join" the new "I care, but not so much"?

If you have any thoughts on this, please comment on this post.

More on This Subject

2008 Facebook Statistics on American Politics (InsideFacebook.com, January 2009)

Party Crashing: How the Facebook Generation Does Politics(Alternet.org, June 2008)

Will Facebook Change Politics? (PickledPolitics.com, July 2007)

'Open-Source Politics' Taps Facebook for Myanmar Protests (Wired Magazine, June 2007)

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