Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Facebook Petition

My last post was about a petition I didn't sign, today's is about a petition that I did sign.  Because it's only fair to provide balanced non-biased petition coverage.  Also because I'm lazy and this was an easy post.

People should sign this!  It's a petition asking Facebook to expand the options regarding gender and sexuality in a profile's Basic Info section, to include genders beyond just male and female and to include sexualities beyond just straight, gay or bi.  It's important!

I think these two petitions are a pretty good example of something that probably isn't all that helpful and something that is.  Well-meaning (though shark-racist) it may be, the dolphin petition doesn't seem like it will be all that useful in the grand scheme of things.  I mean, why would the Government of Peru care about some random Canadian lady's opinion on how they enforce their dolphin ban?  Or a hundred random Canadian ladies, or a thousand.  Basically, the opinions of a few average citizens in another country just aren't that important to foreign governments.  I don't pay taxes to Peru, I don't vote there, I don't even think about Peru all that often.  But I do use Facebook.  I'll go out on a limb and say that most people on the internet use Facebook.  Most everybody signing that petition will be a Facebook user.  Unlike Peru, Facebook will have a reason to care about the opinions of people signing this petition.  If it gets enough signatures it might make them realize that while it seems like a simple thing, it's important to a lot of people and thus something that they should consider changing, to better serve their customers.  There are loads of people who are unable to express their gender or sexuality accurately on Facebook, and considering the amount of time people spend online, and how our social interactions are largely taking place on sites like Facebook these days than they are in face-to-face situations, I think it's a pretty big deal that people can properly say who they really are in those situations.  And it's not like it would be a lot of work for Facebook, either; unlike Peru, which will have to spend a lot of money sending ships and crews out on regular patrols and then having officials work extra time dealing with the increased numbers of caught offenders, all Facebook has to do is add another button or two to their website.  And Facebook changes their website constantly.

So, to compare:  the dolphin petition is asking Peru to a) listen to the opinions of a bunch of random foreigners who offer nothing to the country but criticism, and b) spend a ton of money to placate these foreigners (who will probably forget about Peru entirely the second they do).  Sure, there are ethical and legal reasons to do what the petition is asking, but those reasons are not actually affected by the petition in any way.  The Facebook petition, though, just asks Facebook to a) listen to people who are probably already users as they express a grievance with the service they are being offered directly, which impacts their active use of the site rather than just their polite sensitivities for a situation that they aren't directly involved in at any stage, unlike the Peru one, and b) make a small change to the profile setup that won't affect anybody but the people who are asking for the change, and which can probably be done the next time Facebook does some big huge redesign that everyone will hate like they do two or three times a year.  The difference is huge regarding the amount of work the petitions are requesting be done as well as in the direct impact the issues have on the people signing the petitions in the first place.  So it's kind of disappointing that the largely impractical, armchair-activist dolphin petition has almost eighteen thousand signatures as of this time while the Facebook petition that has an actual day-to-day effect on a number of Facebook users over a relatively simple issue only has about a hundred.

Also, it never occurred to me to post this Nimona strip on my last post about sharks.  So this is to make up for it.

Any day where I can plug Nimona is a good day.

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