Ready to sign

Discovering that online petitions do in fact have a positive effect

Whether it’s the envy I feel when I check out friends’ holiday snaps or close-ups of their fabulous meals, I find myself frequently irritated when I’m on Facebook and wonder what I’m doing watching other people’s lives instead of getting on with my own.

I have of course been guilty of posting my own holiday photos and details of my life that make it look far more interesting than it is. Let’s face it: most of us aren’t sharing the more mundane details on our timeline, so there are no pix of me folding laundry or cleaning the hamster cage.

But I’ve also come to appreciate that Facebook and its social media cousin, Twitter, can also be used for good.

Every week, I am inundated with requests to sign a petition for a cause close to someone’s heart. And if it’s one I feel strongly about, I sign it. I suppose it’s an easy way out. While I have one cause that I support financially every month, my finances  don’t run to supporting every cause out there. And I have and do give my time to other volunteer endeavours, but I only have so much free time.

Signing an online petition and then sharing it on Facebook I suppose makes me feel I’ve done something.

But I’m discovering that these online petitions do in fact have a positive effect.

The recent charges laid against Chilliwack Cattle Sales Ltd. and seven of its employees following a B.C. SPCA investigation was good news for any of us who love animals. Almost two years ago, Mercy for Animals Canada conducted an undercover investigation at the farm allegedly showing the horrific cruelty being inflicted on dairy cows, and its petition on quickly brought close to 100,000 signatures.

In its “Nine Rules for Dominating Facebook for Farmed Animals,” the farmed animal rights group’s second rule is “Make people feel something, especially sadness, anger, amusement or nausea.” Manipulative? Maybe. But who cares, as long as it works.

Animals are a cause close to my heart. I have a hard enough time understanding anyone who doesn’t like animals, but I am often pushed to the brink when I hear of animal cruelty. The cruelty human beings are capable of inflicting on beautiful, sentient creatures continues to astonish me.

So I applaud the positive effect of social media, for shining a light on causes that might not otherwise get attention.

I’ve been happy to sign anything to do with animals: a lonely horse in Washington State who hasn’t been let out of his stall in two years; stopping the illegal poaching and trade of elephant ivory; the adoption of  a groundbreaking animal welfare policy by Maple Leaf Foods.

But it’s not just animals. I signed one that asked Amazon to remove T-shirts from their web site (the “got suicide” shirts were a play on the “got milk” ads and were in unbelievably poor taste).

Others have included asking for the long-form census to be reinstated; for the banning of microbeads in skin care products; and for a son to be able to join his Second World War veteran father in Europe for the 70th anniversary commemoration of D-Day. The school board that employs Rick Boon refused to give him unpaid time off to accompany his dad, who needs extra care. A single signature grew to 32,413 supporters. The school board took note and Boon was with his dad that day.

Animals, children, women and human rights violations: these are all topics that get my attention.

Albert Einstein once said, “The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil but because of those who look and do nothing.”

According to, more than 900,000 Canadians signed 241 petitions that achieved their goal in 2015. So if my one signature can spark change by sharing it on Facebook, then I will use social media for good, quite happily.

Katherine Mortimer writes for the Vernon Morning Star.