Three simple steps to use Facebook more effectively for social change

I’m sure I don’t need to tell anyone reading this that there is an extreme abundance of bad news in the world.  An awful lot of this news makes it into our Facebook feeds, and those of our friends.  It would probably be possible to find an outrageous and/or demoralizing article to post every five minutes, for the rest of your life. 

But is that the best way to make change? 

I have friends who have quit Facebook because they could not handle the constant barrage of depressing news in their feeds.  Even for those of us who stay, these kinds of posts can take a toll on our mental health.  And when we get more depressed, we get less politically active, which makes us collectively less effective at bringing about the positive changes we all so desperately need.

I have three ways that I personally make an effort to combat this, and I want to share them so that others can take part as well, and collectively we can be as effective as possible.

1) When you see positive/victorious stories, please be sure to share them too!  People are taking action and making a difference in the world, in a wide variety of issue areas. If you need places to find such stories, you can check out The Optimist Daily, Yes! Magazine, DailyGood, or similar sites.  Or just keep an eye out in your own feed for the uplifting things your friends post.  Sharing links to these kinds of articles gives your friends and followers reminders that people do have power to effect positive change in the world.  The more we see that it can be done, the more we feel empowered to take action ourselves.

2) But, of course, it would be irresponsible to simply bury our heads in the sand when it comes to the distressing news that is all around us.  We share these things on Facebook partly to mourn, or to feel outraged, together with our like-minded friends.  But there is a more empowering way to do that than simply hitting “share” on an upsetting article and then hitting “post”:  Include a call to action.  Do a little research before you make the post.  Has someone already organized an online petition about the item in question?  If so, you can sign the petition and then post the link asking friends to sign (and share) as well.  If there is no petition yet, you can research to find out who the decision makers are for any particular issue, and either begin your own petition (change.org is one good site I have used, but there are many others) or send an email to those decision makers, and then share that to your post.  (“I am outraged about the situation in the article below.  I just sent the following email to my member of Congress; please feel free to copy/paste and/or adapt it, and send one to your representative as well.  Let’s change this!”)  Post a copy of the email you sent, and if possible, also post a link to make it easy for people to get the phone numbers and email addresses for their particular decision makers. (For members of Congress, here is a good one: www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative)

3) If you happen to be sharing a friend’s campaign, action, or project, again, don’t just hit “share” and “post”, because without personal context, most of your friends are likely to just skim past it. Instead, write something like the following:

“My amazing friend So-and-so [tag So-and-so if they are also on Facebook] is working on this great campaign.  I’ve already [signed the petition, contacted my representatives, donated to the campaign] and I hope you’ll consider doing so as well.”

Then include links or contact information for your friends and followers to do so, so that when they are scrolling through their feed it will be as easy and quick as possible to take that action.  Very few people will take the initiative to do so themselves, but with some simple tools, many more will take action.

We need all hands on deck right now, to fight all the injustices we learn about daily.  Remembering that we do have power to make change, and then taking the extra time to make it easy for others to do so, will result in more positive change.

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