Yesterday on twitter this sentence came up quite frequently,
#helpiranelection - show support for democracy in Iran add green overlay to your Twitter avatar with 1-click - http://helpiranelection.com/
and a lot of people's avatars went slightly green.
I thought it was quite a nice idea, so I did it too, but as with most things done on the internet by more than three people, it came with the unavoidable slew of cynicism. So I thought I'd take a second to defend the green out.
The argument against it seems to be quite simple - 'How is making your avatar green going to change anything? What's the point?!' Now obviously this is not going to directly bring an honest democracy to Iran. If it was as simple as pressing a button I think someone would have done it by now. But it's a simple show of support, a way to get the word out and to keep people talking about something important. That's the way the world works - you keep people talking and solutions are at least looked for. If you let things go quietly then they're forgotten about.
I saw one tweet that said 'It won't help etc etc, remember the blackout, did that work?'
The blackout was a similar movement on twitter whereby people just used a black square instead of their usual picture to protest against a new law in New Zealand, which meant people could have their internet cut off if accused of piracy... Not convicted; accused. No trial, no judge, no jury.
Now, not living in New Zealand I didn't really follow the story, but in answer to the question 'did the blackout work?' You have answered it yourself - it worked because you remember it. The point of the blackout was to spread the word and gain support, not so the PM of New Zealand would check his twitter and say 'Oh shit, look at all these blacked out avatars, I better not pass that law!' Just like the regime in control in Iran are unlikely to hand over power based on some pictures being tinged green, but that doesn't mean it's worthless.
The green out is a minuscule part of what's going on, but it took five seconds and cost me nothing, so why moan about it? Here's something else that makes no difference - going to a protest in the street. If you lived in Iran and you had to decide between staying at home and going out to a protest, you would know that your decision alone would not affect anything, it's far too small a choice. But a lot of people made that choice and this was the result.
Sorry if you don't care about this, it just annoys me when people hate bandwagons whatever they're about. I heard someone say once they weren't going to get an organ donor card because it was just another bandwagon. Never mind that that bandwagon could save lives. Mental.
One final thought - it's nice to see the generation of people politicised during the last US election following through and talking about the election in Iran, which is far less cool because Barack Obama isn't involved.
EDIT: thanks to Laura for mentioning in the comments, another thing you can do to help is change your twitter time zone (in settings at the top) to GMT +3:30 Tehran, the idea behind this is that it makes it harder to identify those actually twittering from within Iran. I must confess I have no idea how effective this is, but I've done it myself because why not?!