The election crisis in Iran has captured the imagination of the Twitterverse in a way that no previous event has.
With Social Media being used by a daring few in Iran to spread word of the atrocities being carried out there, a huge movement of support for the Iranian people has emerged online. Over the past two weeks it’s become increasingly common to log into your favourite Twitter client and be confronted with a sea of green avatars.
Yes, the green-tinted avatar has become the symbol of support for Iranian democracy. It only takes one click of an oft-retweeted link to give your avatar a green tint. While it’s great to see so many people engaging with global politics, the question has to be asked: what does turning your avatar green actually do?
It might sound callous but if we’re honest the answer is “Not a lot”. The green avatar is a token gesture of support that doesn’t do much, if anything, to actually help people in Iran. What’s more, it makes using Twitter more difficult for everyone. Visually scanning through your Twitter stream for friends’ tweets is a lot harder when everyone looks like The Incredible Hulk.
So, how can you make a real difference to the people of Iran?
Kase Wickman, Editor at Air America Media has compiled a list of things you can do today. These include:
- Making a donation to the Red Crescent, an organisation allied with the Red Cross that is providing much-needed medical help in Iran.
- Making a donation to Tehran Bureau, a recently-launched news organisation playing a vital role in getting news out of the country. Many foreign journalists have already been asked to leave Iran or been arrested. The more sources we have getting news to the wider world, the better.
- If you have the know-how you can set up your own Twitter proxy to help Iranian Twitterers keep in contact with the outside world.
- You could change your Twitter profile’s Location and Time Zone information to match Tehran, hopefully confusing Iranian government censors.
- You could contact the United Nations Human Rights Council, urging them to take action.
Looking at the sea of green that confronts me whenever I load up Tweetdeck, I sometimes feel guilty that I haven’t changed my avatar when many people I like and respect have. To me it just felt like too much of a token gesture. Now that I’ve just donated $15 to Tehran Bureau I’ve helped made a difference that a one-click avatar change can’t match.