New media has enabled a whole raft of community groups with their own specific or general aims of change. These range from the grand and ambitious, fighting global warming, to the intimate and personal, organising a community garden. What ties these groups together is the organising potential of new media, allowing individuals to find others with similar interests and band together to enact change.
However, whilst it is easy to get all utopian and hail the internet and the way it can change society for the better, it is also easy to fall into the trap of thinking you are changing society when really you are just lying in bed, prostrate, pressing the ‘like’ button on Facebook. There’s a guilty party right here. Enthusiasm for causes needs to be followed up by action.
A critique often levelled at alternative social organisations online is that they don’t actually achieve any real action. It’s all online petitions and ‘liking’ causes. One of Australia’s most prominent social action groups, GetUp! has faced this criticism. How accurate is it? Does GetUp! achieve what it sets out to do? Does it accomplish anything in the ‘real world’ not just online?
Former editor of GetUp! Nick Moraitis responded to criticism that GetUp! doesn’t achieve real world action by stating ‘just because GetUp! uses online technologies more effectively than other Australian progressive groups, it doesn’t mean that’s the only tactic they employ.’
GetUp! does indeed utilise new media more effectively than most, garnering attention for a variety of important causes and providing a centralised place for donations.
And as Moraitis states, they also employ a variety of offline tactics as well, such as organising rallies and undertaking interviews with mainstream media.
GetUp! achievements speak for themselves, with $2.2 billion secured for mental health, challenging discriminatory voting laws, assisting in increasingly paid parental leave and many more. You can read more here.
There are a variety of online community groups that don’t really get past the click and like stage (the majority of Facebook groups) but when progressive groups such as GetUp! utilise both online and offline tactics the results are impressive.