Joe Green on Facebook Causes

Live blogging from the workshop “From Social Network to Social Movement” at Harvard Law School. Joe Green, Founder of Facebook Causes is presenting. You can also follow on Twitter: #HLSsocnetworks

Facts on Facebook Causes: 50 million people using it, 250.000 active causes, 7 million dollars raised, average donation $22

(1) Why does FB matter? 200 million people using it. This is the Internet getting real. Community online at the beginning was people in Usenet groups talking about Star Wars using pseudonyms. Real identity online has been a holy grail for a long time. Facebook profiles on the other hand use real names [CdG = is this equal to real identities?] – so it is much harder now to fake identity than before. Social graph – there are nodes and connections between the nodes – the nodes being people. That allows real world social dynamics to be brought on the Internet. Most people used to think about the Internet as a separate thing, but because of social media now the offline space is not perceived as separate anymore. Example: FB launching the photo feature: the number of photos on FB is twice as large as the top ten photo applications combined. Social experience around the photos was limited to tagging – so bringing in photo sharing on a social network made it a really powerful tool. Organizing is the same thing. Organizing offline is fundamentally based upon relationships, face to face conversations – online it is about social relations.

(2) How does FB work? Social validation. FB is very deliberately designed for social validation interactions. I do something (write a comment, post a photo) and I await for a positive reaction from one of my friends. Take birthdays: everyone writes on your Wall. This is bizarre. In the offline world you wouldn’t announce your birthday. Now it is a convention (on FB). The reason people are so addicted to FB and are on it hours and hours a day is because they get that social reinforcement and that social validation. With Causes there is the same mechanism working – people can see in your profile which causes you have subscribed to, how much donated and you get validation from people you know (not random people).

(3) Social capital. Membership in volunteer organization has dramatically declined: all types of organizations [CdG: this is different in the UK for example]. People are not engaged with organizations offline. Unequal playing field amongst nonprofits, with the smaller ones struggling more and most young people don’t have a landline or a mailing address that people know about. So what is changing now is that it is becoming very easy to get lots of people to join online. On FB people are socially pressuring their friends to join – and you can get social recognition for it. I have an incentive to join a cause because I get social credit for it. Everything now is about social relations. My favourite example says Joe Green: the charity marathon model. Why does this work? It gives me an excuse to hit on my friends for money, to unlock those social relationships. This can now happen in a much cheaper and easier way but starting causes on FB. Anyone can create a Cause.

Author: Corinna

Corinna di Gennaro (BSc LSE; MPhil, DPhil, Oxon) is a sociologist and a professional in the printing industry.

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