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Are You an Armchair Advocate?

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Wait, what's an Armchair Advocate? Okay, I know what you are thinking. And the answer is "no," an Armchair Advocate is not someone who advocates for the rights of armchairs and sofas [although, I'm sure, an important cause].

I am talking about someone who uses the power of social media to advocate on behalf of the causes that matter most. Someone who uses everyday online tools like Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Pinterest and the bazillion other social media sites to promote social good among their spheres of influence.

Someone who manages to drive their peers to invest their time and talents to solve global problems, all with the click of a mouse.

Why does this matter?

It matters because it means that anyone - an individual, company, government or organization - can be a change agent using social media to create social good. Nonprofits and governments are no longer the sole drivers of a cause. Anyone with access to a mobile device or a mouse can organize an impactful campaign.

So you're telling me all I have to do is click "Like" or "Re-Tweet" to be an advocate?

While the jury may still be out on this question, let me break it down for you. It is true that we can often become Facebook-trigger-happy and 'Like' just about anything under the sun in the matter of seconds upon logging on. The fact that we can 'Like' a political meme about Big Bird as fast as we can 'Like' to see an #EndtoPolio doesn't seem to lend much credibility to the act.

But take young Boy Scout Nate Stafford, for example. At the age of 12, he rallied followers online to support his 8-day walk offline. He raised enough money for the United Nations Foundation's Nothing But Nets campaign to purchase 1,000 life-saving insecticide-treated nets needed to prevent malaria deaths in Africa.

Or Shawn Ahmed, who over the past few years has posted YouTube videos about poverty in Bangladesh, sparking an online movement through his "Uncultured Project."

Or Jennifer James and her "Mom Bloggers for Social Good" -- a coalition of over 1,000 mom bloggers who currently span 17 countries to help spread the good news about the amazing work nonprofit organization are doing around the world.

All of these Armchair Advocates have done what they can with what they have, in an effort to drive interest and influence in social good. They have moved people to do something - whether in the form of a donation or a blog post or a small signature on an online petition. Although small acts, collectively they create something great. The truth is with social media we can reach more people, more swiftly and with more efficiency.

The real challenge now is getting online participants to go from "armchair to action," or from the backseat as a passive campaign participant to the front-seat driving the online vehicle of change. So how can we use the tools of social media to go beyond the 'Like' to successfully educate, advocate and fundraise for a cause?

Our new "Armchair to Action" series will examine just that question.

This blog was originally featured on Impatient Optimists.