Party veterans check out social media organizing

BY:Michelle Kern| May 2, 2013

I had the pleasure of leading a workshop recently on some of the basics of using Facebook for the purpose of introducing it to people who are hesitant to get into social media, or who find the array of possibilities on the site somewhat intimidating at the Communist Party’s national conference in New York City, April 27-28. Conference co-chair Rossana Cambron had suggested this workshop as a topic for me to lead, and it’s a subject that has been much in my mind. I was also inspired by a story of high school students in my area who volunteer to help older newcomers to digital technology. While many people are early adopters of the digital age and its products, sometimes people can feel left behind by the steep learning curve of the various aspects of communication via computer.

Over a dozen members who expressed keen interest in participating on Facebook with other members who have already taken the plunge attended the workshop. Subjects ranged over the basics of signing up and getting an account, protecting your identity from unwanted attention from strangers on Facebook to posting and sharing links and photos on newsfeeds and timelines. We also discussed how to share content from outside of Facebook, copying and posting URLs, and other features that make being a Facebook member worthwhile for online activism.

It is very important for experienced members of the party to be able to share in the collective power of the organization that they were instrumental in helping to build and maintain. Now that People’s World and other party publications are now largely available online, it is crucial for veteran members to be able to search and have access to the tools they need to keep up their sharing of the paper and party materials. We all also need and appreciate the unique viewpoints and deep knowledge of many members who have been in the party for several years. Newer members who aren’t as familiar with party history value the insights and experiences of people who have been in the thick of key struggles in the nation. 

A one-hour workshop can only give a small taste of the experiences of jumping into social media. Resources as close as the public library often give classes on getting familiar with the internet and more experience with Facebook and online research. Friends and comrades who are more familiar with the basics of digital communication might volunteer some time to accompany someone to these classes to help and advocate, or find some time to hook up a friend at home with some pointers on computer techniques. If you have connections with high school teachers, you might suggest that teens looking to fulfill community service hours for graduation might also lend their skills to using a few hours to hook people up to social media. 

Wikihow, an Internet do-it-yourself repository of articles, also has tutorials in Internet and Facebook how-tos for those who decide that they can utilize a more self-directed study method.  Specific topics, like posting photos to Facebook, are covered in detail. Remember that even if you don’t have a computer at home, the library usually has computers for library patrons to use and have access to the Internet. Power-point slides from the workshop this weekend are also located online on Google Drive and are available for your use. 

With some time and a little study, you can be posting your own lively newsletter on your pages, sharing with friends and comrades, finding out about local events and communicating with long-lost friends and relatives.  New party members can benefit from tips on party reading material, book recommendations and lively discussions with advanced Communists. I highly encourage anyone who has been reluctant to jump into social media to dip a toe in the waters. Friend me!




    Michelle Kern has worked as part-time faculty in the Bay Area as a ceramics teacher for seven years. She has lived and worked primarily in the East Bay in the arts, including work at the Richmond Art Center and helping to found the independent art gallery Cricket Engine in Oakland. She relocated back to her native Peninsula four years ago to be closer to work, and now is beginning art, activism and union activity here in Silicon Valley.

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