If you've been on the Internet in the last week and a half, you've know: Green is the hot new color. Twitter avatars, Facebook profile pictures, Web site logos...Iran's Sea of Green has taken over the Internet. It's a well-intentioned fad, but a fad nonetheless, and it's time for it to end.
The amount of noise generated on the Internet has reached a deafening peak, and, quite frankly, it's about time everyone shut up or did something useful. If you're wondering what useful is not, take a look at your Twitter feed. As painful as it may be to admit, no lives are being saved, and no change is being made by adding a green overlay to your online presence, as made popular by the HelpIranElection.com movement. The site boasts that you can "add a green overlay with 1-click!" and that "over 160,000 people have joined! You can too!"
One click is too easy. One click is not one life saved, one dollar donated, not one ounce of difference made. One click is nothing at all.
Like the LiveStrong wristbands, the Iran post-election protest has become a fashionable cause, a Miss America-style way of showing that you really, really care, when for the most part, people know nothing about the underlying causes and history of Iran's unrest, who the candidates were, why it's so bad that some dude whose name they can only pronounce by dint of the mnemonic device "I'mADinnerJacket" won the election, or why the numbers the Iranian government is putting out are totally implausible bullshit.
At least when people bought those stupid wristbands, a buck went to fighting cancer.
Those outside Iran have had a visceral reaction to the images and reports coming out of Iran. Our feelings can best be summed up in the words of a commenter on Jezebel's post of the video of Neda, a young Iranian woman whose horrifyingly graphic death, bleeding out in the streets of Tehran has become a symbol of the movement: "Oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck."
As President Barack Obama said in his press conference Tuesday, it's a heartbreaking situation.
So instead of empty gestures and hashtags, why don't we actually engage in some activism and help, instead of whispering about this like some kind of neighborhood scandal that will never catch up to us because it's an ocean away?
There's always the option of an online donation to a relief agency like Red Crescent, for something immediate and helpful. The world runs on money and blood (as the events in Iran over the last week and a half have so morosely reminded us), and America is too far away to donate the blood that the wounded in Iran so desperately need.
You can also make donations to those covering the ongoing protests and violence, like Tehran Bureau, which is run by an Iranian-emigre out of a house in Newton, Massachusetts and is in need of financial support to keep the site live and bandwidth plentiful. Reliable information is harder and harder to come by, already 24 journalists have been arrested in Iran, and the majority of the rest have been forced out of the country by expired visas and government intimidation.
Don't have cash? There are ways you can help for free without ever leaving your computer. You can create a proxy or Twitter relay to help keep those ever-important Iranian Twitterers connected and informing the world about the situation in Iran. Or change your location and time zone to match Iran, in hopes of tripping up government censors looking for active sources.
If you're more diplomatically-inclined, and looking toward the long term, write a letter to the United Nations Human Rights Council and urge them to take action on international election standards and protection for citizens.
Above all, the thing you must do before any difference can be made is to inform yourself. The term "knowledge is power" wouldn't be repeated so much if it wasn't true. So spend some time reading the news, know what the hell you're talking about, and go out and tell someone else about it, and how they can help.
Just, for the love of God, don't think that turning your Twitter avatar green is going to help anything.