With the many social medias now available, it’s easy to blog, post to Facebook walls, tweet and email alerts to like-minded people. It’s a great way to stay connected and keep informed. It is a much easier way to spread a message, and a lot less expense and waste, than the days of sending snail mail. Activists and many nonprofit groups benefit from these new and fast ways of getting their message out but one thing has not changed, they waste a lot of time preaching to the choir.
I recently was forwarded an email that started:
Farm animals are treated in egregiously cruel ways, and the only way to end this abuse is by getting actively involved in advocating on their behalf.
Google that sentence and you will come up with dozens over different animal rights oriented groups. It makes me question who they are hoping to reach and what are they hoping this information will do. Activists in the thick of spreading the word might readily and immediately respond, “We want to reach everybody and we want them to act upon the injustices.”
I am I feeling messages like this are not reaching their intended audience nor having the desired effect. In fact I think the messages are reaching the same groups of people who are already informed of the atrocities of the world and rather than inform, readers become, numb, overburdened or jaded.
When I state a problem, I like to also propose a solution. I propose living a life that you hope would set an example for the world. Like begets like, to a point. Take for instance the Prologue of This American Life episode 453. It focuses on how the International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution facilitated long talks with opposing sides of about the abortion debate, this was in the 1990s, in Boston where there were murders occurring over the issue. Long story short, (but do read or listen to it) as Ira Glass concludes,
Empathy has its limits. People are not going to agree. And the best that we can hope for is, we’ll just try to see each other as well-meaning people that we respect, and keep things from getting to the point where we are trying to out and out destroy each other.
There isn’t one “only way to end” any abusive situation, and such a statement is not better than the ads that promise weight loss or teeth whitening with “one simple trick.” The point is, not everyone is going to agree with you but living by example will have much more of an impact on getting change in the world than hammering people with atrocious information that comes across as a pat speech, not tailored for the person who is receiving it.
Be someone who seeks information, communicates clearly, isn’t wasteful, is thoughtful, willing to share, communicates as clearly as possible, and can peacefully express limits when others overstep personal boundaries.