A recent rant on a friend’s Facebook page got me thinking about all this liking we do on Facebook.
She posted how silly it was to like something, because you were told by clicking that thumbs-up icon you’d end child poverty, save an abused dog, close the hole in the ozone layer, or some other such thing.
That got me thinking, can liking something on Facebook save the planet?
Not in the physical sense that clicking the “Like” button instantly plants a tree in the rainforest, but in a more abstract way.
Recently, the world’s largest social media network celebrated its tenth anniversary, and in those short ten years, has grown in jaw-dropping ways.
Over 1 billion people use Facebook every month. 250 million people log into the social network every day, leaving 13 million comments in an average week.
As Facebook and other social networks constantly find ways to harvest our data and make money off of us, they are linking about 200 billion businesses with people locally near them.
That’s a lot of social pressure we mere Facebook users have over the companies we do business with.
Although the environmental movement began in the late 1960’s, during the other social and political uprisings of the time, it wasn’t until the 1980’s when a revitalization of the environmental movement’s objectives may actually have their greatest impact today, using social media.
The environmental movement began during the era of the anti-war and anti-establishment movements of the 1960’s. It was the time of pot-smoking hippies, camping out on politician’s front lawns, in the name of raising awareness about the ills of society.
When the hippies grew up and ironically moved into the very careers which they protested in front of, Generation X took over in the 1980’s.
It was the height of the Cold War, so many Generation Xers were fearful of global nuclear war, caused by either the leaders of the States or the then Soviet Union pressing “the button.”
It was also the first time in human history where our modern science and technology seemed unable to stop the end of our species, as the hole in the ozone layer had been discovered, and HIV and AIDS had become an instant death sentence because doctors were unable to treat the then new disease.
Our fate seemed sealed in the 1980’s: either we’d all die of skin cancer due to the hole in the ozone layer, or we’d all die from a rampantly spreading untreatable disease.
These fears, and others of the time, revitalized numerous movements, including the environmental movement.
However, unlike the protest movements of the past, the modern way of protesting for environmental causes was through social pressure.
Environmentalists went after the golden arches in the 1980’s claiming McDonald’s styrofoam disposable containers were contributing to the image of a disposable society, because they weren’t recyclable or re-usable. Other fast food chains were targeted, and eventually they all began using recyclable packaging.
In the 1980’s Generation X environmentalists continued to target businesses through publicity stunts and media campaigns, instead of through the sit-ins, marches and rallies of their parent’s generation.
By applying social pressure to large corporations, the environmentalists in the 1980’s hoped to change the way we consumed things, by forcing these large corporations to create more environmentally-responsible products and services.
And it worked – it was in the 1980’s when large corporations stopped using excessive packaging, and began using recycled materials in their packaging.
Environmentally marketing began too, with many companies introducing “green” product lines.
Curbside recycling programs began in the 1980’s too, so society became less wasteful.
As the next generation is never far from social media, those “likes” on Facebook may be the next wave of environmentalism sweeping across the world.
By liking companies which promote environmentally-friendly initiatives, and not liking ones which don’t, we’re sending a strong message to business leaders.
Even more powerful, when a company is caught doing something that harms the environment, they get taken to task through social media – its now impossible for corporate America to hide in a world where everyone has a smartphone and access to the Internet.
So clicking “Like” on Facebook may not actually prevent global warming, but it may be part of a new social movement that rewards environmentally aware companies, while panning ones which aren’t.