This morning Claire Berlinski sent me a most insightful article by Malcom Gladwell.
Twitter, Facebook and social Activism
Gladwell has a knack for understanding how society fonctions, what makes us tick and take action, what defines our taste as society and, to me, most important, he has a deeply ingrained sense of social justice.
In recent weeks I have been reflecting upon a number of issues at the very heart of the Let’s Adopt! Community, I instinctively knew some of the answers but Gladwell sheds some light on the issue.
Here are some of the main points in Gladwell’s article:
- Fifty years after one of the most extraordinary episodes of social upheaval in American history (The Civil Rights Movement), we seem to have forgotten what activism is.
- High-risk activism, is a “strong-tie” phenomenon.
- The kind of activism associated with social media isn’t like this at all. The platforms of social media are built around weak ties…. but weak ties seldom lead to high-risk activism.
- Facebook activism succeeds not by motivating people to make a real sacrifice but by motivating them to do the things that people do when they are not motivated enough to make a real sacrifice.
- Facebook and the like are tools for building networks, which are the opposite, in structure and character, of hierarchies. Unlike hierarchies, with their rules and procedures, networks aren’t controlled by a single central authority….The drawbacks of networks scarcely matter if the network isn’t interested in systemic change or if it doesn’t need to think strategically. But if you’re taking on a powerful and organized establishment you need to have a hierarchy.
So, where does all of this leave animal activists? In essence it means that
1. Facebook is the ideal instrument to make noise, the kind of noise that will never really make a difference. A sad example of this is to witness the thousands of animal activists spreading animal cruelty videos online. Will they ever achieve anything? Not really. The animal is dead already, the majority will look away and the ones that look are already aware of animal cruelty anyway. To this you must add the risk of copycats popping out of everywhere.
By making easy the sharing of those videos under the pretext of “increasing awareness” Facebook is fulfilling the social activism “fix” of tens of thousands of people.
Same for petitions, a complete waste of time and energy that could instead be channelled into actions and organizations that really work.
2. Facebook is, a great way to raise attention or save ONE particular animal, and this is why we don’t have any problems finding solutions for even the most difficult of cases, but its falls short when it comes to handling large scale operations (like Let’s Adopt!) or rallying a community large enough to, let’s say, turn the U.S. into a No-Kill Nation.
3. In our last post we made a plea for developing stronger ties with our FB contacts, to get to know our lists. Most of the miracles you see us performing here on a daily basis take place because a group of us in Turkey and around the world built real ties, real friendships that extended past virtuality. In other words, we built real teams.
4. Within this year we will find a way to stop using Facebook as a virtual base.
5. If Let’s Adopt! is to survive and achieve its goals we are going to have to find a way for our members to TAKE responsibility, and by this I mean not only pointing us out to animals in distress , or leaving comments under our pictures and posts (don’t get me wrong, we really love that!). By responsibility I mean to actively seek solutions on behalf of the group and our animals, act as foster homes, final homes, flight volunteers, fund raise, put their skills at the disposal of the group and work within the framework of teams.
We need YOU to remember that there is no change without sacrifice, that activism is a sacred activity not a clicking game, that we deal with matters of life and death and that if animals mean anything to them it’s time to step forward and do something about it.
If we cannot find a way to get you all to move with us we will direct all our members to the best animal organizations we can find and Let’s Adopt! will close by the end of the year.
More reflections on Let’s Adopt! and Sacred Activism to be found in this article by Diana Jaramillo.