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Join a Facebook Group and Save the World!

How many groups do you belong to on Facebook? Think about it before you head over there to count them. I figured I had joined about 10 or so. I was wrong. I'm a member of 50 groups. Most of them I don't remember joining. But it's so easy to do. You log onto Facebook, and see in the status updates that a "friend" of yours has joined the Metal Slinky Preservation Group. You think "I used to have a metal Slinky! They're so much better than those plastic ones!", you press a button and bingo! you're member #3,452 of the group. That was easy, now, wasn't it?

The actual groups I belong to are in truth worthier causes than Slinkies (at least I think so). They include "Hey Facebook, breastfeeding is not obscene!", "Boycott White Spot Restaurants", "Neighbours Concerned About 1401 Comox Street" and "Support the Monks Protest in Burma". Occasionally I get messages from them that I rarely notice among the flurry of updates from friends and acquaintenances. I rarely think about them, and I was honestly surprised at how many there were when I logged on this morning and (for the purpose of this article) actually looked at the list.

Facebook isn't the only place you can make your opinion known on the Web of course. People launch hashmark campaigns on Twitter. For example, someone might tweet: "show your support for cancer research. Retweet this #FIGHTCANCER". Eventually someone you follow receives it, re-tweets it, you receive it and do the same. In a short while it's been seen and sent by thousands of people.

Then there are online polls. Most online newspapers (and a lot of other sites) have them. For example, the Surrey Leader's poll today is "Do you think police officers should be seconded from their communities for Olympic security forces?" I forcefully click "No" and my opinion is recorded... and forgotten by tomorrow.

But don't listen to me. Instead head on over to the Globe and Mail's site, where "Sociable" columnist Lisan Jutras" has written an incisive and penetrating article on easy online advocacy, "Facebook mobilizes masses - but what for?" I'll share with you one priceless snippet:

"I bet I can find 1,000,000 people who hate cancer!" is another Facebook group. Never have so many people been gathered together to do so little. I picture them, up-thrusting pitchforks and torches in hand. "Boo! Cancer!" they yell, shadows flickering over their angry faces. Then they all mill around, saying, "Well, here we are, hating cancer!"

But enough. Read it for yourself. And next time you're tempted to join a group to fight cancer or whatever, take a little time to do something a bit more meaningful - donate money to the Canadian Cancer Society, see if a hospice needs volunteer help, write a letter to your MP demanding a ban on cancer-causing chemicals in our food and water supply. Don't just push a button and think that you've accomplished something.

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