I just cross-posted this article on Gather–probably get a lot more views there than here!
I blog about my own search for ways to be more empowered and involved in my community at blog.davewrites.com. I’ve been meaning to write an article on how we could use “web 2.0 tools” to be more effective, but so far, I’ve found nothing positive to write about. I wanted to toss the question out here to see what kinds of constructive suggestions readers could provide to counter my so far disappointing and negative observations…
There is no shortage of opinions out there on politics. I can set up my Google Reader to follow DailyKos, for one very liberal example, and barely keep up with the never ending stream of progressive political commentary. There are plenty more and pretty soon, I just can’t keep up with it all. I can read, read, read, and comment and write about issues to my hearts content…but to what end? There is certainly some personal, self-actualization value in having a forum to talk, but who’s listening? Other people who believe the same thing? Do we really shape overall public opinion? Will politicians listen? Or is it a futile exercise that only serves to make us more upset?
I could go on Facebook and create a group or find a political application that would allow me to hook up with like minded people. The most basic example is to join a candidates group and post something on his/her wall. Maybe I start emailing some high school kid in Florida or Barack Obama becomes my “friend”–along with 145, 097 other supporters. Perhaps, if I dig a little deeper, my actions on Facebook–such as updating my status with “going to a political meeting” or adding all the books I’ve read or taking various polls, etc. might trickle out to my friend network and inspire other friends to be more politically interested…but it’s a very tenuous connection at best.
I found one website that is modeled after Facebook, called essemply.com that was written up in Newsweek over a year ago that explicity tries to connect “like-minded” people. You answer some questions and then you can find people who share your views. It seems to me that’s not really the problem. We need to find people who disagree with us and then find a forum where our discussion of the issues matters and has the potential to effect change.
The website e.politics is a good resource for discussion of how interactive media tools can be used in the political process; but again, I didn’t get a good idea of what I should do next.
I believe online collaboration, enabled by social networking tools, could create an opportunity for incredible citizen empowerment. We could do all or all of the following things to make a difference:
* post videos of voting irregularities to YouTube to put pressure on election officials to avoid voter supression tactics that were alleged in the 2004 Presidential election in Ohio
* contribute to the development of local wikis on non-political but informational resources
* donate money and encourage others to do so via websites like ActBlue
* or, the granddaddy of them all, use MeetUp to find a local meeting of activists
But just arguing and complaining or writing long political sermons among the thousands of similar writings on various websites is not going to do it. I almost feel like we are being distracted from real involvement by how easy it is to publish your thoughts and get drawn into an argument with some random bozo. Is the time we spend reading these things and composing thoughtful comments to responses like “liberals suck” wasted time that would be better spent walking our neighborhoods, going to political meetings, or even just writing letters to Congress?
So, I’m curious…what do others think? And more importantly, what do you DO?