Social Revolution?

Rioters in Egypt

So, for this assignment we were to read 3 articles.

1. Malcolm Gladwell: “Small Change: Why the Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted”

2. Clay Shirky: “The Political Power of Social Media”

3. Clay Shirky and Malcolm Gladwell: “From Innovation to Revolution: Do Social Media Make Protests Possible?”

Interesting stuff. I think they both have a point. I think that Gladwell is right that the lunch counter sit-ins would not have been as effectively wrought in our modern age with FaceBook and Twitter. I mean, when you have an option to go and you vote “Yes”, “No”, or “Maybe” and there is no way to check up on whether or not you actually did what you voted, you’re going to have less efficacy than word of mouth, or face to face interactions with people you KNOW.

At the same time, I honestly believe that the uprising in Egypt and the protests in the Philippines wouldn’t have been as effective or as far reaching without social media. The difference is that those 2 “socially driven revolutions” still had a basis in face to face interactions. Both places were physically affected by a bad situation, so there was more personal investment than your typical “Come to ___ and do ____” that you might find on FaceBook or Twitter.

Case in point: the personal investments in the 2001 Philippines protests…. or Boobquake on FaceBook. Yeah, you got a bunch of women to wear cleavage enhancing or revealing shirts for a day, but what is the social impact? Did the religious leader’s brain explode at the sheer level of scantily clad ta-tas? Did the earth in fact shake and tremble at our might? Did he recant anything he said and improve situations for women? Nope. And unfortunately that is probably one of the more popular and participated-in FaceBook random events. Most times, there is not as much personal investment in issues, and the participation is spotty.

So yeah, social media is useful, but you have to pick your battles.

Tunisia? Social media was useful.

Egypt? Definitely useful.

Boobquake? Not so much.

I think we need to be sure to pick the battles that social media will play a significant part in. Think of it like the boy that cried wolf. If we try to motivate every cause through FaceBook or Twitter, eventually people will stop paying attention, and that form of connectivity will be useless.


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