Friday, June 14, 2013

Baby Steps to a Better World Part 4 - Online Activism

This week’s post wanders away from the practice of charitable giving and focuses on online activism. Whether it’s animal rights, human rights or protesting the dismal living conditions around the planet, situations don’t improve unless someone takes a stand. This is your chance to join the global activist community and do exactly that.

Activism is a river of opportunity that starts with online petitions and flows into organizing rallies and protests. Since this is an introduction, we’ll focus on the petitions.  As you get more comfortable with some of the organizations and issues, you can wade in a little deeper and join activities or even help organize some.

Activism is a lot easier than it looks from the outside. You don’t have to be smart, rich or popular. You just need compassion. This is a great opportunity for people with limited time, on a limited budget or who have difficulty leaving the house. You can do it from the comfort of your recliner in your fuzzy slippers while you’re sipping your coffee. All you need is an internet connection and a computer, iPad or smart phone.  Let’s get started!

First, identify a situation that inspires you to rant and complain. I’m not talking about a bad call by a ref during a game or immature celebrity behavior at awards ceremonies. I’m talking about frustration with politicians and world leaders, heartache over a country in turmoil, anger over the mistreatment of a person or animal.

Take that annoyance and go to your computer. Open your web browser and in the search box type “petition against ________” with your topic in the blank. Then search and see what comes up. Some sites will focus on that single topic. Some will have petitions about numerous issues. Some will focus on the many facets of human or animal rights.

When you find a petition, make sure it is about a topic that is still relevant. Some petitions are left online even after the issue has passed. If it’s an active topic, go ahead and sign it. Voila, you’re now an online activist!  

The next part is easy. Now that the website or organization has your e-mail address, opportunities to sign other petitions will start showing up in your inbox. If it’s a website focused on a specific issue they will keep you informed about the status of that issue and other petitions you can sign. If it’s a larger organization, they may send you information about other issues. Read the ones you’re interested in and delete the rest. If it gets too overwhelming, you can unsubscribe from their lists anytime you want.

The final step is spreading the word. Study your issue of choice so you can have logical and well-informed discussions about it. Many issues involve a lot of emotion on both sides. Learn enough that you can base your opinion on fact not emotion. You don’t win support by shouting down your opponents. You win it by convincing people it’s an issue worth addressing.

Be aware that not everyone will share your newfound passion. Since gathering support is the goal of any activist, you need to make sure you’re building interest in the topic not just pestering people. When a petition or story catches your eye feel free to share it with others. Post it on Facebook, Twitter, Live Journal or wherever but don’t make that topic the only thing you share. Diversify your timeline or page by posting other things, some of them lighthearted some of them not. People are more likely to support your cause when they don’t feel bombarded by post after post after post of nothing but petitions and depressing stories. Keep your posts short. I recommend creating a “did you know” list of facts and posting them one at a time scattered among other things. If you can pique someone’s curiosity with a single fact, you can start a discussion.


Next week: membership and revenge donations.

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