If you’re somewhat active on Twitter, I’m sure you’ve seen the constant updates regarding the issue in Iran (for those that aren’t aware…well…look it up. It’s kinda big). You also may have noticed that many of the user avatars having a nice green overlay to them. It’s to support democracy in Iran, or so I’ve heard. While the gesture is nice, I think people are missing the point. Whether it’s green icons, a ribbon sticker on your car, or any other adoption of a cause, the simple acts people take do not give it any more credence.
The point is this: if you want to make a difference, then do it. I highly doubt that any of the current leaders in Iran noticed the sea of green avatars and decided to change their views on democracy. I also didn’t see the issue (as of yet) get resolved in the way many folks were clammoring for. Greg Graffin put it well back in December 1998 in an essay titled “Web-Surdites” (original link not available, fan page listed here). In short,
The internet is so anonymous, and such a poor gauge of the emotional status of its users, that it is hard to verify if the words and pictures you are seeing were even generated by a human being at all.
Let us not blunder and assume that behaviors such as protest marches, sit-ins, benefit concerts, lectures, and other social gatherings can be reduced to electronic media that effectively filter out all human emotional connections. How do we measure the seriousness of a cause? We see it and experience it with our senses.
It was correct in 1998, and it’s still correct now. There are many people out there that are actively involved in a cause that they believe in, both foreign and domestic. But to do some small gesture electronically, then go about your day, seems to be a bit empty.