Click to Save the World


by Eleni Maria Rozali

When I first saw the link for the Google Fortune telling page in my FB newsfeed, I thought, “What?” And as a regular, curious person the next thing I did was to go ahead and to try it, and I was in for a surprise: this was in fact an app created to raise awareness (and money) for the migration and refugee crisis that has escalated over the past year.

I tried a couple of times to type in “my question about the future” (and no I’m not telling what I typed…), and the search bar was auto-filled with questions such as “Where can I find a safe place?” with suggested alternative questions underneath equally thought provoking – “Will I be reunited with my family?” and “Is there a place I can give my children a safe future?”

Seconds later, I was redirected, and received information on what the site actually is about: it wants us to take a moment to think what it is like to have an uncertain future.

The site pledges that it is created for awareness raising, and in order to provoke structural changes on a political level for this escalating problem. It also suggests that we check with local initiatives and charities and includes share buttons for Facebook and Twitter, where one can post and inform their network of friends about the issue.

This is yet another example of how ICT is utilised to raise awareness of a cause or a crisis. There are numerous examples #icebucketchallenge, #BringBackOurGirls, #BlackLivesMatter, as well as #EverydaySexism and #ShoutingBack.

But is solidarity effective to a cause, just by pressing a few buttons on your keyboard?

It is common knowledge that the evolution of the Internet has brought on numerous changes in attitudes and habits. The use of smartphones and mobile technology has only but enhanced these changes.

Up until the emergence of social media, philanthropy usually took place at star-studded galas, the kind we would see photos of in glossy magazines where the financially affluent could show off the amount they were donating to the cause.

However, with this approach, “everyone has a seat at the donor table and online campaigns that can raise $5, $10, or $20 each from thousands (if not millions) […], it’s enough money to make an impact” [1].

On the other hand, social media platforms have also provided a sense of proximity that otherwise didn’t exist, all of it almost real time.

Social media platforms began as networks that people used to connect with each other, but have now evolved into platforms to inform and raise awareness about causes.

Back in 2013, Facebook launched the Donate Button, to raise awareness and money for specific non-profits. Now the platform is taking the concept mainstream where all non-profits will have access to it.

It all seems to payoff: the Ice Bucket Challenge led to “more than a million challenge videos posted on Facebook, raising well over $6 million and counting to fight the disease,” according to the ALS Association. Last year, says the association, they were happy to get a fraction of these donations” [1].

Yes, there is the argument that Clicktivism oozes narcissism. Don’t philanthropic galas share the same concept?

Social media is an integral part of this generation’s culture and environment. Millennials were born into the technological advances: they can’t imagine what life is without an Internet connection. As such they are “reshaping philanthropy and advocacy” [1].

Eleanor Harrison, Chief Executive of GlobalGiving, a charity crowd funding platform, says “the use of Facebook was the single most important tool for success in crowd funding… Facebook delivers the most, Twitter is the most successful at building links across different organizations and making people aware” [2].

According to Carine Appleby, “An ever-increasing number of charities are using social media to fund raise and raise awareness of their causes” [3].

In an article in CivilSociety, Kirsty Weakley claims that “viral social media campaigns, such as the #nomakeupselfie campaign of 2014, as a reason for the predicted growth, saying that text lines had “become the glue linking donations with the monetisation of social media” [4].

So it is pretty obvious that these forms of activism, Clicktivism and online awareness are here to stay. However, before we hurry to label it in negative terms, we should stop to think about whether the campaigns offer more good than harm.

[1] Stepanek, Marcia (19 August 2014). Social Media for Social Change.

[2] Radojev, Hugh (18 May 2015). ‘Facebook is the most important tool for successful crowdfunding’, Civil Society Fundraising. /facebook_the_most_important_social_media_tool_for_crowd_fundraising_but_the_market_continues_to_change

[3] Appleby, Carine (22 August 2013). ‘RNLI asks supporters to ‘donate’ Tweets and Facebook posts’.

[4] Weakley, Kirsty (14 July 2015). “Nearly one in ten people donated by text last year”.

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