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Social Media and Campaigning: The little bird that took over the Big IF

Bill Gates, David Beckham and Myleene Klass may have all taken to the stage, some more physically than others, at the Big IF event in London’s Hyde Park on the 8th June 2013. But it was the crowd, they insisted, who had the most important voice that day.

I lost count of how many times the 45,000 strong audience was told to raise their voice, in an electronic sense, on Twitter. Certainly if a speaker did not put out a clear call to inspire activist thumbs to exercise views on social media, then they were grabbed for a photo with a ‘Tweet David Cameron’ card as soon as they stepped off stage.

It all got a bit monotonous, with the exception of the beautiful voice of singer and campaigner Angelique Kidjo. I did get involved though; spurred into action by a dog dedicated enough to the cause of global hunger to have the IF logo shaved into its side, but I couldn’t help but ask the question – how much difference can a little electronic note actually make?

It is certainly a question Memphis Barker was also asking in his article Let’s not kid ourselves – people power has almost nothing to do with this fight against global hunger for The Independent. No prizes for guessing he would not expect the world leaders to reference his Tweets at the G8. Yet calls for the public to ‘shout out’ on social media seem to be important to campaigners, if not policy makers. Greenpeace’s recent stunt, climbing the shard to raise awareness of Arctic drilling, was covered live with video and commentary on a specially set up website, where every minute or so they encouraged people to “hashtag IceClimb”.

So if there is no evidence that anyone in high places is listening to the outcry on social media, is there a point of out-crying? Of course there is! As The Times’ student essay prize winner propagated recently “the injustices perpetrated abroad in the age of colonialism could not have gone unchecked without an element of ignorance, apathy and complacent superiority at home.” A post can raise awareness amongst your friends and followers about issues they may not otherwise have heard. If they are interested enough it can even help to nudge their behaviour towards the sustainable lifestyle we all need to adopt if we are to make our resources stretch for generations to come.  So, if lobbying the government on Twitter about developing communities’ access to clean water makes even one person think about turning off the tap whilst cleaning their teeth, thus saving water- well then a victory has still taken place.

written by Ashley Winter

About Ashley Winter

Ashley is an enthusiastic traveller who has worked in India, China, Malaysia and Slovakia. Now based in the UK she fills her time with books, climbing walls and people who inspire her.