Changing the world one Like at a time

Clicktivism is not just taking part in online petitions. It’s social co-ordination and awareness raising, one silly stunt at a time, Liz Breslin writes.

I’ve always been a tad disparaging about it, in the same way that I’m severely allergic to chain letters and nominations to paint Facewaster with flowers, ’70s songs and the 19th line on the 44th page of the book I’m currently reading.

It’s explicable. I have dreadful taste in music, I couldn’t tell you the difference between a foxglove and a lupin and the bad bullies made really good use of note-passing at my school, so I’m always suspicious of anything letterlike handed, with a grin, my way. Plus, I’m usually reading at least three books.

But I am a sucker for a good online petition. And I don’t make the rookie mistake of thinking that clicktivistic activities, because they are online, are somehow not actually very real.

Not in the camp of those who Simon Willis,’s British managing director for Europe, has called "the cynical ‘dinner party chatterati’," for sniffing at the power of online petitions.  Not at all.

More than a hundred million of us have signed them in the last five years. And yes, there have been wins. And yet I feel like I’ve clicked a lot of things about child poverty and nothing’s really changed. If a click falls over in the forest and all that, does anyone hear it cry?

Clicktivism, though, is not just petitions. It’s social co-ordination. And awareness raising, one silly stunt at a time. 

Remember the ice bucket challenge thing a couple of years ago? Remember what it was for? In a nutshell, have ice water tipped over your  head and film it and share it or pay a charity donation. And then you nominate other people who feel the pressure to play or be "bad friends".

The charity in question is the ALS Association, which raised funds to tackle amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Bucketers and non-bucketers ended up raising over $US115 million ($NZ160 million) from the proliferation of the stunt.

The majority of the money (67%) has gone on research and, blow me down with a foxglove, last week a "significant discovery" was made, of a gene called NEK1.  It’s a promising link. Which could mean that the ice embarrassment strategy actually flipping worked.

Which gives me hope, since I have, for the first time, if you don’t count those let’s-trick-the-boys-with-veiled-references-to-our-undies-and-handbags posts, signed up for my own internet-based cringeworthiness, thanks to my ex-British-Royal-Marine brother.

In a nutshell, you have to do 22 push-ups  a day for 22 days. The 22 signifies the average number of American veterans who kill themselves every day.

I feel like I should clarify. I don’t at all support the wars that America gets itself into. I don’t think war has winners on either side. But it’s like Kate Tempest says in Ballad of a Hero: I don’t support the war my son/I don’t believe it’s right/but I do support the soldiers/who go off to war to fight.


Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

It might be an urban myth that more Falklands War veterans in the UK have died at their own hands than the count that died in that war. It could be true that the suicide rate is climbing in our own military. It’s not a stretch to say that most of us know someone who is battle-scarred, although their struggles are not conventional wars.

I am being a bit slack with my clicktivism approach, in that I am not nominating other people, but I feel it is too rude to throw gauntlets to social media mates; it’s in the same bucket as getting them to buy all the school fundraising chocolate.

And I am not posting the correct thing, properly hashtagged, every day. Because I switch off when I see exactly the same thing over and over, so I imagine other people also might.

But I am being completely staunch about doing the push-ups, and about posting them to Facewaster, though my form is dreadful. I will do them in a different place every day for 22 days. The trampoline, the bus stop, the skifield, a poem gig, the front lawn, the Esplanade at St Clair Beach.

That last one, I had to get someone else to hold the camera, and I choked at explaining the whole deal to a random tourist having a so-far-so-good selfie-with-surfers day.

I am resolved to do better at finding the words. And I hope it will give me stronger shoulders, not just physically, because who knows what might help who?

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