The awesome power of the click?

One interesting by-product of the proliferation of social tools has been the boon in one-click activism. One need only look at the staggering number of Facebook groups dedicated to every thinkable cause to start to see how widely this has spread. Want to save the people of Darfur? How about ending breast cancer? If you can dream of doing it, there’s probably a Facebook Group.

This isn’t to say Facebook Groups can’t do good things. I’m sure there are examples up the wazoo of a Facebook Group or online petition leading to concrete action. But asking people to click on a “Join Group” button is a lot easier, and thus a lot more appealing, than asking people to get off of their couch and actually do something.

In recent months, though, this one-click-to-save-the-world approach to “awareness raising” has been joined by the latest viral sensation sweeping the nation – the Twitter ReTweet. Notwithstanding the current debate about the new retweet functionality that Twitter itself has introduced, most experts and gurus would tell you nothing gives you more credibility or influence than someone retweeting your thoughts. News breaks and spreads around the world in as long as it takes someone to click.

It seems, though, that the byproduct of making it so easy to care is that people aren’t taking the time to actually check facts and investigate stories before they align themselves with the latest online cause célèbre. When news “broke” on Twitter that the mint was planning to take the caribou off of the quarter, it was retweeted by dozens of people who were unaware that it was actually a bait-and-switch campaign by a coalition of environmental non-profits. Fake Amber Alerts (which are totally, totally repulsive in my view) have been known to spread on Twitter before being nipped in the bud by authorities. Less profoundly, how many people read and spread that Jeff Goldblum died the same night as Michael Jackson?

The same sort of people who would discount hits as an archaic measure of online engagement boast about the number of people who joined their Facebook Group or signed their online petition. The same sort of people who would NEVER post a one-sided story to their blog (or who would lambaste any publication that sole-sourced an article) retweet half-truths and unsubstantiated claims.

Does the simplicity of the click absolve the clicker of the responsibility to dig a little deeper, either into the issue they’re purporting to support or the story they’re helping to spread?

Do you feel any responsibility to what you click on in such a public way?

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