What have you signed recently? Perhaps you cared enough about Trump to be one of the 1.3 million who signed a petition banning him from Britain? Or maybe you were more likely to sign the viral petition urging Netflix to stop the release of its new series Insatiable.
Petitions are a quick and easy way for our voices to be heard and demand change; but how much of a difference do they actually make?
The more attention an online petition receives, the more likely it will be discussed by the government. In the UK, if a petition gets over 100,000 names, the government “could be debated in the House of Commons”.
This “could” is where e-petitions may lose their value. Yes, the government could discuss this issue… but they also could not. Or if they do, they could then easily reject it.
For a petition to be taken seriously, it needs to be carried out with active campaigning to show the government that yes, we do care very much about this issue. If people take to the streets it distinguishes more important petitions from the perhaps… less important.
Petitions are undeniably important. They raise awareness about important issues and this energy can be used to drive change in the right direction. Add into the mix some active and passionate campaigning and a change is much more likely to happen.
And even if there is a lack of active campaigning, online petitions are still useful due to their viral nature and are important in recruiting new people to a cause. Sometimes the quick and effective recruitment achieved by online petitions is just as important as the change that can come with time.
So when you next come across a shared petition on your Twitter or Facebook, be it one hoping to deport Justin Bieber from the US or perhaps one forcing your government to accept more refugees into your country, by all means, add your name to the list if you find yourself passionate. Just don’t expect instant change without a little more effort on your part.