I'll concede that Ning is obviously an important tool. The concept of the SNS is rather interesting, let alone engineering one to one's own design. It allows the sitecreator to put a spin on the social climate within the site. For example, there is an obvious difference between the kinds of individuals and their behaviors on my group's Ning as opposed to a Lady Gaga Fan Club Ning. Yet, the creation of either space involved a single human intention to consort with like minds for some particular purpose.
Even so, I still wonder about the efficacy of SNSes in the "meat space." It's way too easy to type, click and drag one's way into several different groups. Personal conviction is necessary, otherwise the effort to orchestrate social change falls through even with the technology available.
SNSes have this transient effect on people. They'll feel strongly, one way or another, about any group or cause their asked to join or decide to join. However, once this moment of announcing some affiliation is over, users typically are complacent; it becomes an act of hollow association. Still, I don't think this temporary inspiration can be denied. Even the most fleeting spirits of advocacy do not pass without some mention from the user. I think people glean causes and groups as part of impression management, adding various plumes to their rears to vaunt about online.
Participation in the case isn't held as valuable as association with the cause. Some of the smartest individuals can still fall pray to this. It isn't troubling. It's almost the model. In combining the vices of my generation: political apathy, indifference to personal values, and an enduring pursuit of instant gratification, a simulated political move becomes appealing. A no-effort, simultaneous, double-click and "virtually" my peers can claim their ideological superiority or their "concern" for the downtrodden and disadvantaged.
I think things will change in time. My generation will become more politically active. But very, very slowly.