It seems to be a recent phenomenon, and I could be wrong, but it seems that people have gone on “awareness” campaigns out the wazoo (yes, that’s a word) about, well…about almost everything. You’ve got breast cancer awareness, abortion awareness (both pro-life and -choice), leukemia awareness, Downs syndrome awareness, feminists raising awareness about the fact that they don’t have man-parts but would like to be treated as if they do, the whole Kony2012 bit that went on last year. All of these things…and people only seem to want you to be “aware” of them. What are they hoping for?
Well, theoretically it was supposed to work like this: people become aware of an issue I care about, and suddenly I’ve got people who care enough, because of their new-found awareness, to go out and do something about this issue that I care for deeply. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but that ended up not being the case.
What actually happens when people go on these “awareness” campaigns is they end up attracting a whole bunch of like-minded people who also want to make people aware. And suddenly, the goal, far from “get up and go do something because this matters,” evolves to become more along the lines of “everybody needs to know about this.” So, really, all you wind up with is a lot of Facebook “likes” and “shares” and some people buy a t-shirt or “like” your page, but, really, you’re still stuck with the same people who originally set out to make everyone aware still doing all of the work with not many new people joining their cause and actually doing something to aid said cause. Probably because most of the people who are frantically “sharing” your cause are the people who never get off of their computers in the first place. That’s why they can share it 60 billion times in a day. It’s not reaching their friends who have kids, go to work, and have bills to pay and dinner to cook who get online once every two days via their phone. It’s reaching all those other people who don’t go outside. (Probably teenagers who are avoiding homework).
The internet, if you ask me, is such a terrible way to get people to care about, and act out of conviction for, anything. Everybody who actually cares is probably already out doing something about the thing they care about.
I mean, people don’t even really understand what it means to “get involved” anymore. If you ask someone “what are you doing to help?” the conversation might go like this:
You: So, I hear you really care about the issue of _____. How are you involved?
Person: Well, I gave the Facebook page a “like,” and I shared the video they posted.
You: No, I mean, what are you doing to help?
Person: Well…I bought a t-shirt too… I can give you their website…
You: Um, right, so, how do you get involved with this organization?
Person: I don’t understand your question.
Seriously… I’ve seen this happen. I used to be one of those people who thought that I was helping when, really, I was just one person in a mass of people who all were already “aware” of whatever it is I was “involved with” at the time.
Now, don’t get me wrong. The internet itself is not to blame. People are. Using the internet or sites like Facebook to spread the word about your cause is actually really smart. Getting other people to also spread the word is smart, too. But the problem is not where we start, it’s the fact that we stop there. So many people think that all they’re supposed to do is “like” this or “share” that, and the world’s problems go away. That’s not at all what we’re called to.
Even God “so loved the world he did not send a blogger to pontificate about what others were doing. He sent his Son to get stuff done!” (via Mark Driscoll). We should be out imitating Christ by “getting stuff done,” not stopping after we’ve successfully let people know that some women end up with breast cancer, that children are killed in the womb, and that many of those children are killed because they have Downs syndrome (90% of those children are aborted, by the way). We should be out shining a light to the world, being the city on a hill. Facebook and other technology can be a wonderful tool to do that with, but I can’t help but wonder at our motivation for using these things in the first place. Do we use “spreading the gospel” as an excuse to use them, or are we using them to spread the gospel?
But now I’m off on a slightly different rant… Well, until next time.