Your Facebook Health-Care Protests: Why You Changed Your Status (Or Didn't)

Last week, thousands of Facebook users updated their status to reflect their support for health-care reform. As Jenny Hontz reported at the time, small gestures like this can make a big difference not only by reminding progressive politicians that the Facebook Generation—the same group of organized, plugged-in citizens who helped elect Obama—are still a force, but also by countering the loud, angry town halls in a more tech-savvy way.

But as our readers reminded us, political strategy isn't the only reason people changed their Facebook message to show support for health care. (Some pages still have the original message, "No one should die because they cannot afford health care, and no one should go broke because they get sick," but Facebook moves fast, and most updates have been long bumped to the bottom of an owner's respective page.)

Whether it was to generate conversation with more conservative family members or because they liked the simple message of the post, we found several readers with varied motivation for changing their status, like Emily:

I changed my status yesterday. Mainly as a passive-aggressive ploy to get my family-in-law discussing healthcare, as they are hard core republicans who think any government intervention is just a hand out to lazy people who don't work for a living. And in the meantime, my husband has been out of work about 8 months out of the past 12, and if his hours aren't high enough, we could lose our insurance. And with 2 little kids, doctors visits and ER visits are just an inevitability. So without insurance, we could easily lose our house. And I think that the healthcare debate is viewed, on the right, in such abstract terms. "Keep your government hands off my health care" instead of, "wow, my son/cousin/brother really stands to suffer if something isn't changed in our system". The pre-written statement also brought up children missing doctors appointments because their parents can't afford it, and yesterday I had to cancel [my husband's] checkup, because we just can't afford to pay $135 out of pocket. And that's with insurance. When I read that sentence, it resonated, and I want people to understand that it is real people who are suffering because of lack of healthcare, not some abstract stereotype of a lazy person.

We asked several Facebook users why they did—or didn't—change their status. Here's what they said, some in direct messages to me reprinted with their permission, and some on the comments of the original post:

Denise, via Facebook:

with all the misinformation out there ("health care reform will bankrupt us" "health care reform causes cancer"—ok, I made that one up). I wanted to use Facebook to remind people what it's fundamentally all about: Not dying or going broke because you get sick. I know that people tend to forget that because they feel safer believing it will never happen to them. I just wanted to remind them that it could.

Commenter DragonScorpion, who posted a modified version of the status update:

Americans are an exceptionally lazy lot. "Activism" is considered making a blog post or changing the status on a social-networking site like Facebook. I do both of those things and I think they are important because they can educate the pubic, take a stand, or perhaps even motivate others to get involved. But without more substantive efforts, like signing petitions, calling/writing our representatives, and yes, voting, we don't actually make our voice heard in any way that counts.

I didn't include in my status change that people should get off the couch and write their congressman. I wish now that I would have. However, last week I did take the time to write not only my congressman but both senators in my state. This week I'm sending one to President Obama. My letters won't change their votes any more than my Facebook status did, but if masses of citizens did the same, that most certainly would...

Bonne, via Facebook:

I changed it, and leaving it up. Why? B/C I am socialist to the core. I think public education should be provided by the government/tax-payers too. Of course, with this, the 'people' should be responsible and mindful of the 'burden' they are placing on society/community/neighbors when they have eight kids in public school, or smoke cigarettes/eat bacon and need a triple-bypass

Commenter LuckyBob04:

Yes, let's keep perpetuating the idea that the only people that are against the president's (outsourced) healthcare plan are technically-enept, scared old people who are against ANY reform effort. I'm sorry, but I also hate the term "anti-reform." Just because you are against the plan put forth by the House of Representatives does not make you automatically against all efforts to reform the healthcare industry.

Look, I am 23 years old. Am I for healthcare reform? You betcha. Do I support the president's plan? Not in the least. There are multiple ways to address the issue, but I am not anti-reform just because I don't support a course of action(s) that I believe will do more harm than good.

Oh, and my "senior" parents (45 years old) are on facebook talking about healthcare reform. They also do not support the president's plan.

Commenter SocialStigma:

I posted this on my status update as well. I often post articles concerning this issue and am very pro-health care reform. I do not attend town hall meetings, they are a circus act. I also don't bother with contacting my representatives as I live in Texas and do not represent my position, nor would they be very interested in my opinion.. On my profile I usually have over 50+ comments of back and forth civil, as well as intelligent, debate on these issues rather than the ridiculous cicus act that is being displayed on the news. People confuse the online movement with the youth movement. Many of my family members participate on this forum, and they are well over 40. I am almost 40 myself, as well as the majority of my friends.

Commenter AdrianaDC:

I changed my status, because I want to be heard and like many people I can't go to a townhall meeting. It's not a political issue for me. I believe that statement gets the message across clearly and succintly. This problem is one that we can and should solve. We're up to the challenge if we care to make the effort (and yes pay the necessary costs—which are well worth the benefits).

Commentor GaelicGal:

I posted, because I have a high risk factor of having a heart attack or stroke in the next few months, can't work, am about to be evicted because SS is backlogged, can't get health care, and because some of my Facebook friends and relatives (Christians all) think people should move to Canada if they want change.

Commentor Zoe Nicholson:

I set my update status with the viral message for 24 hours. Dozens of people scrolled through my newsfeed with it and, I imagine, they got it from all sorts of different sources. For me, it was one way to see some agreement among calm, intelligent people instead of only seeing the screaming fringe that the televised media seems to favor.

Not all of us want to shout and just say no. We want to say yes to health care for everyone. My personal interest is joining the rest of the developed nations and care for all of our citizens; even those most in need.

Commentor macoul:

Putting what amounts to a bumper stick on your Facebook account is a poor substitute and shows just how vapid and unreal this social networking can be.

These are just a selection of the responses from readers. Check out the original post and leave your own response below.

Your Facebook Health-Care Protests: Why You Changed Your Status (Or Didn't) | News