[T[he distinction between online and offline life is collapsing to the point of meaninglessness, making some of the discussion about online and offline activism sound a little like having a debate on cars that assumes they are used mostly for recreation instead of a primary form of getting around to live your actual life. You can try, I suppose, to run offline activism as if the Internet didn’t exist, but that’s a little like sending telegrams because you find telephones disconcertingly modern. I’m sure some people do it, but I’m 34 years old now and I can’t actually say I’ve ever really participated in any kind of pure offline activism in my life. Even when I do offline activism, it’s still online.
Let’s take, for instance, a protest in New York City in February 2011 on behalf of Planned Parenthood, and where I spoke. * * * I was invited to speak at this rally because I had started a Twitter campaign supporting Planned Parenthood and I invited people to thank the organization while using the hashtag#thanksppfa. Thousands of stories were collected in one spot over just a couple of days. The organizers of the rally spread the word through online means, such as Facebook and blogs. Before the rally, a friend of mine used online methods to organize a sign-making party, and we made sure to take photos of our signs with our cameras and post them online. * * *
In the past, protest organizers were quite often at the mercy of the mainstream media, who could render a protest basically useless by deciding not to cover it. With the Internet — and especially with smart phones — that becomes much less of an issue. * * *
Fears that the Internet would somehow discourage people from getting out in the world and having that critical face-to-face interaction that adds depth to our activism are often proving to have missed the point completely. People crave reasons to leave the house and meet others, and the Internet gives them more reason to do so. In the past, going to an activist event often was a matter of luck — did you see the right flier or come across the right person before the event? Now, you can create invite chains on Facebook that will reach people that were unreachable before, and integrate them more readily into the community.
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