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Online petitions: Change? Really??

Posted on Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Everything we do online captures valuable data from which someone else will capitalize.

At Elettore, we've seen enough to be convinced: online petitions are more valuable as information harvesters than "change agents."

Few high-profile cases have attracted as much online support as the shootings of Treyvon Martin in 2012 and Michael Brown in 2014. In both instances, the numbers of people who "signed" petitions are cited in the press ... but how did that work out for you, America? How did those petitions change anything? Who received the petition information? The courts? The prosecuting attorneys? Local media?

A wise colleague observes that these are the hallmark of a disengaged electorate. You have probably heard this passive (and often anonymous) keyboard activism referred to as "slacktivism."

Online petitions provide an opportunity for us to share on social media how we feel. They give us a sense of community by recruiting others to join us. They are like lists of supporters on political campaign websites. They give us a chance to pronounce our affiliation with a tribe. Self-selecting "cool kids," if you will.

But result in change?

No, that's not what online petitions are about. They are reactions rather than pro-actions. They add to entrenched, divisive yammer rather than result in any positive outcome. Simply put, in spite of America's culture of self-importance, online petitions do not have the weight of the Constitutional Congress. They are about feeling good about ourselves.

Not a bad thing.

It's just that they're also about providing valuable information to some nebulous – and hopefully benign – data-harvesting operation in the cloud.

Change requires vision, real courage, clear communication, good old-fashioned shoe leather, and healthy doses of strategy all carried out effectively. We can help you with that.

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