You’re probably sick to death of all the buzz surrounding RSS, Facebook, and Twitter. But I’ve got to tell you: you’re missing out as an activist if you’re not using these tools. Why?
As activists, maybe the most important thing we can do is to find interesting, relevant information about vegan issues, and to make sure as many people read it as possible. You undoubtably have influence over certain people that nobody else has, so why not put this influence to work? You certainly have friends, family, and loved ones who will miss out on compelling information unless they hear about it from you.
An RSS reader will help you to constantly find fresh information with minimal effort. How many times have you gone to a site you’ve bookmarked only to find it hasn’t been updated? RSS removes that time waste from the equation. Your RSS reader automatically visits every site you’ve subscribed to, and pulls off the latest information. It’s an indispensable tool for anyone who spends time surfing the web, and renders ordinary web browsers obsolete for most purposes. There are a number of terrific RSS readers you can install for free. Try NetNewswire for Macs, FeedDemon for Windows, or Google Reader as an online web-browser based reader.
Any blog-based site will offer a way to subscribe to its RSS feed. You can usually click the RSS button in your web browser’s URL bar, and it will create a subscription in your default feed reader. Many sites, such as Vegan.com, also feature an RSS button on their front pages.
Facebook is likewise an indispensible platform for activists. In no time you’ll have dozens of friends. And each of these people will see the links you share whenever you publish a status update. The key is to not do like one of my Facebook friends, who just republishes everything that ends up on PETA’s homepage. That sort of numbing republishing is a sure path to having your friends ignore you. Instead, only post status updates that are genuinely interesting. Better to post one incredibly interesting update a week than three ho-hum updates a day.
And finally: Twitter, which really does deserve its massive hype. As with Facebook, you end up with a bunch of people who pay attention to your status updates. The difference here is that your updates are also searchable by keyword. So if you publish something on Swine Flu, or veganism, or E. coli, your status update is likely to be read by people searching on those topics. Where Twitter gets especially cool is you can do searches to see what people are commenting about in real time. For instance, I just did a search for “vegan” on Twitter and found 13 entries made in the past ten minutes.
You’ll want to use a Twitter app to read tweets from others and to post your own. I personally use Tweetie on my Mac and love it; you can download a free version that is advertising supported. Or try Tweetdeck, which is free and cross-platform.
You’ve no doubt already heard about RSS readers, Facebook, and Twitter. It takes only about 20 minutes to take the plunge and begin exploring each. So don’t put it off any longer: you’ll gain some indispensible tools for activism that will enable you to influence numerous people with almost no effort.
As much as any other factor, I think the future of the animal protection movement depends on how many activists take the time to begin using RSS, Facebook, and Twitter effectively.