Pro-Lifers Exploiting Facebook's Enormous Potential

According to information gleaned from (where else?) the Internet, in the month of July 2009, almost 370 million people worldwide visited the social networking site Facebook, "up 155% from July 2008." Fred Wilson describes Facebook as the "fourth most popular web site in the world after Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo," so it's not surprising he calls it a "global juggernaut."

From my correspondence, more and more pro-lifers of all ages have Facebook pages of their own for fun and for keeping in touch with friends.

But what they may not know is that Facebook may be the single most powerful new tool available to the pro-life movement. Other mediums (blogs, YouTube, Twitter, etc.) have considerable value, but Facebook has a key advantage--for lack of a better word, its personality.

To understand its enormous potential for pro-lifers, let me offer a little background for those unfamiliar with Facebook. Users register to create a profile page of themselves. They connect to other users by "friending" each other. You can actively seek out friends. You also get to decide when people contact you whether they are allowed on your friend list.

Profiles are customizable, complete with a picture of the user, and (if you wish) personal information such as educational/professional background, church affiliation, and character descriptions (favorite movies, music, books, hobbies, etc.).

Users interact with their online "friends" by sending messages (similar to e-mail), posting on each other's profile pages, and updating their status. That can be a short message displayed at the top of the user's profile page, anything from a funny anecdote, thought of the day, or what that person is doing at the moment. Users can also create or join group pages geared towards a specific issue or organization, or just for fun.

While an ever-greater number of people are using Facebook for business purposes, most people simply use it to communicate with friends, and share items that they find interesting. In other words, they use Facebook to discuss the same topics they would in person.

Why is all this enormously helpful to the pro-life movement? For starters, it is much easier to connect with other pro-lifers than ever before. The majority of users on Facebook interact with people they already know in real life, at least when they first begin.

Because they will be "friending" people they know, pro-lifers will be connecting with other pro-lifers on Facebook. Consider how many pro-lifers came into the Movement through the happenstance of a conversation with a friend or a casual perusal of a pro-life news article. One's Facebook profile significantly enhances the reach of the pro-life message.

In addition, each one of your friends has friends you don't know. When you allow these others in on your Facebook page as friends, it is almost always because of something you have in common, such as a mutual acquaintance or a mutual cause. As a result, Facebook fosters the spontaneous organization of like-minded individuals.

There's more. Posting links to news stories, videos, and notices about pro-life events provides a forum for the uneducated to learn the truth about abortion. Pro-lifers believe fervently that they can bring most people over to their side if given half a chance. Because Facebook profiles are customized and are designed to reflect the real world personality of the user, individuals will relate to each other person to person, not as faceless usernames in cyberspace.

When an interesting tidbit is posted to Facebook, other users will see that this person considers it important and worthy of attention. Just as you're more likely to take the advice of a close friend than a complete stranger, individuals on Facebook will be more likely to read an interesting article or compelling argument against abortion if it's someone they know trying to persuade them. Putting a human face behind the information can establish common ground with the uninformed or opposed. Facebook provides all that, and much more.

Pro-lifers work tirelessly to educate others about the beauty and complexity of the unborn and to explain how abortion is an unconscionable attack on an innocent passenger. Recruiting new individuals to our cause becomes second nature.

Facebook allows for that process to continue, simply in a new setting. By contrast, other social media such as blogs, YouTube, and Twitter are designed to streamline the sharing of pure information. Establishing a pro-life Facebook presence demonstrates our efforts to permeate the larger culture with an ongoing life-affirming message.

For pro-life chapters, a Facebook group can help with many activities. A group page can enable quick messaging to members and posting of events, photos, and video. It can even act as free advertising for individuals looking for a group in their area. Urging people to join the group on Facebook is easy, and because it requires only a small commitment on their part, is something people can readily agree to doing. Once they've joined the group, you have a record of them, contact info, and can send them messages, just as you would with a traditional e-mail or phone tree. Pro-lifers have preached the necessity of list growing and maintenance from the very beginning; a Facebook group is a contact list at your fingertips.

For all its potential Facebook is not some sort of magic cure-all for pro-lifers. Indeed, because you have the opportunity to have your information distributed far and wide, it is more important than ever that we check our facts rigorously and exhibit the kind of decorum we use in real life. We should always keep in mind that Facebook is a tool, not a wonder weapon, and that what is posted for the world to see is posted for the world to scrutinize.

At the end of the day, there is no substitute for the honest work of face-to-face meetings and events to spread our message. But that one-on-one interaction can be beautifully supplemented by social networking, particularly Facebook.

Contact: Jonathan Rogers
Source: NRLC
Publish Date: October 16, 2009
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The IFRL is the largest grassroots pro-life organization in Illinois. A non-profit organization, that serves as the state coordinating body for local pro-life chapters representing thousands of Illinois citizens working to restore respect for all human life in our society. The IFRL is composed of people of different political persuasions, various faiths and diverse economic, social and ethnic backgrounds. Since 1973 the Illinois Federation for Right to Life has been working to end abortion and restore legal protection to those members of the human family who are threatened by abortion, infanticide and euthanasia. Diverse though we are, we hold one common belief - that every human being has an inalienable right to life that is precious and must be protected. IFRL is dedicated to restoring the right to life to the unborn, and protection for the disabled and the elderly.   Click here to learn more about the IFRL.