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The passivity of a Facebook activist

No longer daydreamers

The cold wind coming in from Lake Michigan was the only thing that reminded me about how long I had actually stood there, on that very same spot. There was a Starbucks with comfy seats and hot drinks just around the corner but no caramel macchiato in the world was worth the risk of me losing my inches of asphalt. The year is 2008. October has recently turned into November and the world has just changed. At Grant Park there are still signs of the celebrations. The queues to get that historic piece of Chicago Tribune were endless.

The men and women standing next to (and occasionally on) me seemed equally frozen but just as excited. We were all part of the loud crowd outside Barack Obama’s first press conference as President-elect. Eventually we got a glimpse of him before he got into one of the three SUV:s that were waiting.

That half a second of “world leaders-spotting” meant something, for sure. (If nothing else I got a blurred picture of a President arm of Armani that later that day was e-mailed out to everyone on my contact list with great joy but returned with even greater skepticism.)

But what really mattered that moment were the people around me. Leading up to that point most of them had not only campaigned online. They had rallied, protested and knocked on potential voters doors throughout the entire Illinois. Watching them enjoy the result of their efforts was heavenly.


The loneliness of a right wing midfielder

In a grey adorable city by the docks in North West England, I go to bed. It is 5 o’clock in the morning and the year is 2011. I have just come home after half a day of traveling. I realize that, due to the obvious lack of sleep, I will feel absolutely terrible three hours later which is when I will start my daily routine of winding meter after meter of black and white microfilm at Liverpool’s public library in an academic attempt to contribute to the research suggesting that mainstream media fails to be representative of minorities. 

I am totally OK with it though. Cause I had taken the train to London, entered the “away fans” section of one of the city’s stadiums and watched my football team play.

We won that match. The “GOOOOOOAL” moment was of course really neat (I support a team which hasn’t won anything of real significance since the FA Cup 1995, results are important). But, between you and me, the scenery that followed right after was the reason for me going there.

Hearts were on fire.

Despite the blue minimal plastic seats available, the men and women around me stood up cheering throughout the rest of the game.  We were complete strangers to one another but had an instant deeply personal bond because of our belief in a particular something. 

Through our presence we were the so called “twelfth player” that can mean the world to a pair of exhausted footballer’s feet that is searching for the power to run faster, to fight harder. Yes! I strongly believe that clicking the like-button on your favorite player’s fan page on Facebook is simply not enough – he or she needs you to be there.

We hugged each other while singing the chants.


Great expectations

I am having my second dessert (yeah, those of you working at the EP:s web communication unit have probably noticed a sudden lack of products in the vending machines…) and the year is 2012. I am in Brussels with such an enthusiasm that the correspondent who is based here from the network I used to work for should start thinking of getting an early retirement in a couple of months. Just as I get to the nicest part of the raspberry panna cotta I pick up a conversation.

A woman working for a politician is talking about how ”annoying” she finds it that a street close to her apartment often is closed due to the persistency of angry protesters which makes her morning walk to work five minutes longer.

First her comment made me surprised. Then sad. Then angry. Then I felt a bit ashamed for letting all those three emotions run through my innocent body of a trainee. After all, what did I expect? A random EP worker to be politically committed to such an extent that she would appreciate fellow citizens exercising their right to fight for whatever cause they believed in?

Well, yeah. Actually.

And moreover, I bet her Facebook profile would suggest that she was.


Hey clickers, get yourself on a train

“Click here to end Morocco’s rape and marry law”. It kept coming up on my Facebook newsfeed. It is the day before yesterday which means we’re getting to the end of this blog post.

You have probably heard about the despicable penal code that allows a rapist to avoid prosecution by marrying his victim if she is a minor. It is awful and as “world citizens” (yeah, despite being in my very late twenties I actually use words like that) we not only should but must react.  In a heartbeat, roughly around 25 percent of my friends did and I thought it was great. How actively did they react though? If I would suggest a protest outside the Moroccan embassy, how many of them would go?

Needless to say social media was crucial for the president previously mentioned, and without it we probably wouldn’t have had the honor to listen to Tawakkul Karman’s inspirational speech at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo last year. Social media’s political potential and the way it has changed the world means everything to me. But why this unwillingness of many Facebook activists to take their presumed commitments outdoors? Getting a little physical about things? Like the dedicated Democrats that fall of 2008 or the slightly obsessed supporters (not to be confused with hooligans) at football games?

If you think of this “power of the people” kind of physical activity as a part of idealistic leftovers from past decades I recommend you to take a day off from the world. Log out from all your social media accounts, take a train across the countryside and, preferably by the help of carefully selected songs by Morrissey, Bob Dylan, Joey Ramone and a young Patti Smith, get back in touch with the troubled teenager you once were, who believed in changing the world in ways that this decade’s army of young pretenders might call old fashioned. Then go back home and keep clicking the like-buttons, because it of course matters. But this time, afterwards, also let the online hero in you get some fresh air. 


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