Every day on social media, it’s the same thing: a one-question instant poll asking whether I think the occupant of the Oval Office is racist, whether Joe Biden is too old, whether pollution is a bad thing …
“Sign the petition!”
“Tell Congress you want sensible gun laws…”
“Tell Congress to protect our Second Amendment rights …”
None of it demands you get off your butt and do anything. Just sign and go on scrolling and looking at other people’s dinners and reading celebrity gossip.
But one thing you do accomplish when you take these “instant polls” or sign on to petitions that likely won’t ever be delivered, and even if they are, nobody’s going to act on them, is that you give your contact information to some marketing firm and your inbox is going to be inundated with requests for money.
That’s all they want. Your money. They’re not going to accomplish any policy change, but they have your information and they’re going to ask you for money every damn day.
Bernie needs $1 to make it to a million donors.
Mayor Pete will fight for you if you answer one question: Are you happy with your health care plan?
Elizabeth Warren needs to know whether you support consumer protections.
Sign the petition and tell Congress to protect Israel. Or Palestinians. Or Russian workers. Or the people of Hong Kong …
“Let’s put Gov. Inslee on the debate stage …”
I see dozens of them every day, and I like to comment: “I’m not giving you my contact information so you can use it to clog up my inbox with demands for money.”
I don’t answer instant polls and I don’t sign online petitions.
Neither should you.
These “polls” aren’t scientific and they’re useless as a result. And I’ve never heard of an online petition changing public policy. The only aim is to raise money, and they won’t stop, especially if you donate.
Now they know they have a live one, and they’ll tell their friends.
Have you ever tossed food to a single seagull at the beach? That gull will call all its friends, and before you know it, there are a dozen or more gulls flocking around you, trying to get at your lunch.
That’s how these marketers work. Suddenly, you have a dozen e-mails a day asking for you to sign petitions and donate money.
So, what should we do instead?
Show up at your legislators’ offices with your demands for action.
Show up at events to learn more about the issues, so you know more than you’ll learn from clicking a yes or no button on Facebook.
Learn what you can about the issues you care about, about the pros and cons of policies and how they affect real people.
When ICE is in town, take groceries to families who are afraid to leave their homes.
When City Council wants to sell off a piece of public-owned land to a private developer, show up and demand the land stay in public hands, or if the sale is for the development of “affordable” housing, make sure that housing is truly affordable, not $1500 for a one-bedroom apartment.
Educate yourself and act on what you know, and then help others learn.
If you’re tempted to post a petition, find a fact sheet and post that instead.
Oh, and make sure you’re registered to vote, and then vote. If we all use the ballot, cheating is less likely to work for those who steal elections with voter suppression laws and gerrymandering.
You can check your voter registration status here: https://www.vote.org/am-i-registered-to-vote/. If you thought you were registered and you’re not, you’ve probably been purged and you need to re-register. Do it now so you don’t get screwed out of your vote on Election Day.
The instant polls and fake petitions are a distraction. Please treat them as such.