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Click a Button, Save the World?

Thursday, July 09, 2009 at 02:53 PM EDT

No one can deny that Facebook has a certain convenience factor. You can now find out which former classmates got fat, went bald (or both) from afar without having to embarrass yourself at a high school reunion. Businesses can create a “page” so that Facebook users can become “fans” of them, thus creating a higher visibility.

Since its advent, Facebook has tried to one up itself over and over again by constantly creating new ways for users to declare likes and dislikes, connect, or take a stand.

One of the relatively newer features is the ability to “join” a cause. Perusing through my Facebook inbox just now, I found no less than ten invitations to join causes. With the click of a button, I can support healthcare reform, saving the rainforest, stopping hunger, “one less plastic bag a day”, saving public television, etc, etc, etc…

It bothers me. Not in the way that super-poking applications bother me, because that is an entirely separate Circle of Hell.

I feel that this new way to declare support only promotes passivity amongst a generation whose attention span bears a remarkable resemblance to that of a pea.

During the last election, Barack Obama was able to snap that elusive demographic out of its own apathy by engaging them with a condensed and catchy marketing strategy that worked. All it took was two words: “hope” and change”.

Since his grassroots movement began to pick up steam, there has been a noticable uptick in people wanting to “get involved”; to be apart of that Hope and Change.

I have literally overheard conversations while riding on the Metro where people talk about what causes they have joined on Facebook, like they were talking about the work they were doing with the Peace Corps in Africa.

It is as if a person who, for example, does not like animal cruelty thinks that just by clicking a button, they are involved, or that they have done something to save a kitten. They have not. They have simply clicked a button.

Yesterday I received an invitation to join a cause regarding healthcare reform. As a test, I asked the person who invited me what the cause was about and why they supported it.

They could not tell me.

“It just sounded good.”

While joining a cause can promote visibility for certain issues, it promotes ignorance as well. Condensed watered down versions of complex problems are easier for some to understand, but it can present a very flawed picture of reality.

They remind me of MySpace angles. A Facebook cause is like an unattractive female taking pictures of herself at awkward angles with their big doe eyes, so they end up looking hotter and about twenty-five pounds lighter. It may be pretty and glossy on the surface, but the reality is much less appealing.

Maybe that is the problem, though. Maybe people do not want to get down to the nitty gritty and learn the ins and outs of a cause. Maybe they want to “support” something in the easiest way possible. Clicking a button is certainly much easier than volunteering at a soup kitchen or starting a letter-writing campaign to your congressman.

It is worrisome, especially now with America fighting a war on two fronts, and an economic crisis at home.

How can anyone stand up for something effectively if they are sitting down in front of a computer?