Social networking sites like Facebook and Myspace create opportunities to keep in touch with old friends and new, organizations and businesses, events in your surrounding community, and news. They have also been used to promote philanthropy. An innumerable amount of social justice causes utilize the inherent far-reaching nature of the internet and the social connections made possible via these social networking websites.
One interesting new site is Friendfactor. Friendfactor “seeks to fill that gap and shift the gay* rights dialogue away from ideology and toward a more personal and inclusive concept: friends helping friends.” Friendfactor works with Facebook, for now, to connect friends to their friends, ideally their LGBTQ friends, to support and educate each other to get active in fighting for equal rights and protections. FriendFactor is very new, it is still in Beta-testing, and so its effect and popularity is still to be seen, but it is a clear indication of the tactics being used today in violence prevention and social justice issues.
Another site aimed directly at youth is one that we covered earlier this week, ThatsNotCool.com. ThatsNotCool offers kids videos of realistic scenarios, using fruit in one (“Apple” is dating “Orange”), both sides of arguments, how talking to authority figures is easier than kids think. Some of the videos even offer multiple choice responses, and a description of how each answer might go. There is even a Q&A forum in which kids can ask questions and have them answered by adults (kids can also answer each others questions too).
Last year the Virginia Department of Health’s Department of Injury and Violence Prevention conducted an online White Ribbon Campaign via Facebook. The White Ribbon Campaign was created to speak to men specifically about violence following a brutal shooting in Montreal in which , unlike an awareness ribbon, the White Ribbon is a pledge to “never commit, condone, or remain silent about violence against women.” Users changed their profile picture to the White Ribbon image. Friends of users who changed their pictures would notice one day that several, hopefully many, of their friends all had the same picture and would invariably ask “what’s up with the White Ribbon?” The goal of this campaign was to get people talking about gender violence, and men’s role in it’s prevention.
Prevention efforts via social networking sites extend beyond violence prevention, MalariaEngage is a social networking site dedicated to research and the eradication of Malaria. It encourages users to get involved and charts their contributions.
Prevention efforts via social networking sites float on two sides of the prevention spectrum; it is both a form primary prevention and secondary prevention. The ability to reach young kids (likely) before they experience violence, relationship and/or sexual, makes it primary prevention. It is also secondary in the sense that it offers information and resources for victims and survivors.
As a tool of prevention, social media offers organizations, like RCASA, with the ability to reach beyond their communities into national and even across the globe. It cannot, on its own, be an effective tool in preventing violence. It can, however, be a piece of a broad puzzle aimed at educating communities in the eradication of violence. It is a piece that no organization, in the developed nations, dedicated to social justice can be without.