“You may never know what results come from your actions. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.” ―Mahatma Gandhi
This past weekend, I attended a major sporting event with my 12-year old son, Salem. Here’s the selfie to prove it. It was a close game. And our team won in dramatic fashion.
If you’ve ever attended a sporting event (especially football), you know the fans in attendance can be quite passionate at times.
The overweight, 30-year old man next to me criticized the coach the entire game for not calling the right plays. Apparently, a play-action pass would guarantee a score on almost every play. Never mind the fact that the actual coach had probably spent 60+ hours watching film and meticulously planning for this game… apparently the guy next to me knew more.
Meanwhile the 50-year old woman behind us with the raspy voice knew, somehow, that the referees had a bias against our team. Every call they made against the home team was wrong and I lost count how many times they didn’t call a penalty on the other guys. The fact that we were 22 rows up and the refs were within feet of the players didn’t seem to bother her… apparently she saw everything better than the trained professionals.
But I’ll leave those thoughts aside for now. There are probably some life lessons to be drawn about leadership and criticism and humility, but maybe I will save them for another time.
During the game, on this particular afternoon, I was struck by our propensity to applaud others. It seems we are a people who love to cheer.
We are quick to clap and stand and whistle when people accomplish great feats. We applaud enthusiastically at athletic events, musical venues, dramatic performances, spacecraft landings, and even product launches.
Applause is important to us. It allows us to express appreciation, offer encouragement, and even affect the outcome of sporting events. It makes us feel like we are part of the action… and that is where applause can become deceptive.
Applause is not the same as participation—at least, not in all cases. But I fear that often times, we confuse the two.
Recently, Fast Company published an article about advocacy based on a study conducted by Cone Communications. The study revealed that 60% of Americans believe tweeting or posting information online is an effective form of advocacy or support. While activism used to require making a donation, volunteering time, or signing a petition, in today’s world, “activism” has become as simple as clicking a button.
And while the study is quick to point out that ‘liking’ or ‘tweeting’ about a social cause does help raise awareness, less than 35% of respondents who supported a cause online could point to an actual donation made to the same cause. Applause has become confused with participation.
Alison DaSilva, executive vice president of Cone Communications, sums it this way, “It’s no surprise we’re seeing a gap between the actions Americans say they’d like to take online and what they’re actually doing; considering the bulk of online activities offered today are focused on more passive actions, such as watching a video or ‘liking’ a social page.”
Cheering for a cause is rarely the same as participating in it. (tweet that)
Recently, the Ice Bucket Challenge made a big splash on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. According to some data about the campaign, more than 90% of the people mentioning it (posting themselves being doused or passing on the word) did not make a financial donation to support actual research on the disease.
Seth Godin called it slacktivism.
Were there benefits to the campaign? Sure. In fact, millions of dollars were raised for ALS research and related organizations. Applause does have its place.
So cheer on charity. Retweet and Like those organizations that are working to make a difference and overcome injustice in our world. Enthusiastically applaud those who are doing important work.
But don’t forget that most charities need more than your applause. They need your time. They need your money. And they need your expertise.
They need you to step off the sideline and get into the game.