Many years ago, whenever a social grouping wanted to pass complains that had been neglected, there existed a group of people well known to each other and with enough courage to resist over the complains. This was and still is referred to as activism. This group then mobilized people to resist and demonstrate.
However, there are those who were afraid to join such groups. Over a period of time social media, including Facebook and Twitter emerged with a gradual growth.
The growth of Social media thus has caused a great revolution in world of social activism. This has been advantageous to the less privileged and the powerless, those who are afraid of joining activists groups, since it is an effective means to air their opinions, to collaborate and coordinate as they pass their critical concerns (Gladwell 314).
This has provided an accommodation for a bigger majority as compared when people group themselves physically to resist over something, which in turn referred to as activism. From history until the world today, Facebook and twitter has purposely supported resisting groups in the course of their demonstrations.
Many of the demonstrations conducted earlier would not have succeeded without social media, for instance in Iran. According to Gladwell, without twitter and Facebook the people of Iran would not have felt empowered and confident (314). In addition, today social activists do not focus on causes but rather on their tools including Facebook and Twitter.
On the other hand, over the past years, social media had a low popularity, which has increased greatly over time. With many reacting to this to this growing technology, it is clear that communication lacks history, or may be, had little of importance to consider (Gladwell 316). However, this tends to do away with the meaning of activism, which involves people committing themselves to a group in person for the sake of subsequent connection. In this, everybody connects to the other so long as both participate in the group.
Social media lacks such great tie between the participating individuals, which makes activism more concrete. This paper seeks to find out which of these two sides of social media brings the larger effect. It tends to find out whether technology changes the course of history or it is what people do.
The meaning of Activism
The upheaval of social media has made people to lose the meaning of activism. Activism includes values, a structure of operation, commitment, and a strong personal connection to the movement involved. Activism requires one to give his personal basic details including contacts. An activist movement could only take in a well know person and not a stranger.
In the past, one needed to know at least one person in the movement for him/her to join. Activism goes to the extent of training the members of the movement, organizing retreats for the members to interact, formalizing the operation procedures, dividing labor, having a committee and small groups, each with a task to carry out in the movement. It also included authorities, which control and oversee the group.
Social media and activism/social change
Social media has however changed the original meaning of activism. It ignores the strong bond between members of an activist movement. All platforms of social media are on basis of very weak bonds. This includes Facebook and Twitter. They involve people who do not know one another and who have never met. The highest level of bonding is of acquaintances.
It includes many people who try to pursue a common course jointly at the level of friendship, which has never worked. This is because in reality no one can have over two thousand friends. In other words, it is getting strength in the pool of weak ties.
According to Gladwell, “Social media cannot provide what social change has always required” (315). It is easy to post on Facebook or twitter but this differs with what the effect is on the situation in question. Social change requires direct connection and face-to-face interaction(s), which social media cannot provide. Social media cannot unite freshmen to the extent of resisting. This level needs activism as we see in A&T freshmen.
In addition, social media ignore the hierarchical organization of the traditional activism. It involves a network, which differs from hierarchical structures in the fact that many, not a sole authority, control networks. With this nature, social network arrives at a decision through census and the bonds of people involved are loose.
This is what Gladwell refers to as “strength in weak ties” (319). There are no face-to-face interactions and thus there is little or no trust among the members of the network. This shows that social media can only thrive in a low risk situation.
In Cairo, Tahirir square, people greatly embraced internet, twitter, Smartphone, and Facebook to overthrow President Hosni Mubarak (Gladwell 329). On realizing this, Mubarak blocked the internet. However, crowds against him increased even with the government restricting the use of internet. This is simply because only 19% of the population had a connection to the social media.
The same scenario replicates in Iran, where very few people had the access to the social Medias (Facebook and twitter). However, with such media missing, people still networked and grouped themselves. This shows that activism is not all about Social Media.
Communication and history
Actually, social media works as a promoting factor:
The marvels of communication technology in the present have produced a false consciousness about the past-even a sense that communication has no history or had nothing of importance to consider before the days of television and the internet”(Gladwell, 316).
Activism in college freshmen was there long time ago before twitter and Facebook. This is to show that freshman needed more of activism not the social media to complete the resistance. As a freshman today, one needs activism and communication only to motivate and support. For example if a freshman wants to organize a strike, he will get people he knows to initiate the strike.
Social media and the powerless in the society
It also shows that activism is about individuals knowing each other and forming powerful bonds with each other. “With Facebook and twitter and the like, the traditional relationship between political authority and popular will has been upended, making it easier for the powerless to collaborate, coordinate and raise their concerns” (Gladwell 314). With a college freshman, it would be hard to pass on grievances or resistance. It will require a social Media to pass such information and resistance.
High risk activism as a strong- tie phenomenon
With the growing technology on social media, many have transformed their thinking. Many think that to have a friend on twitter or Facebook is the same as having a friend they know at a personal level.
It has put off the fact that activism requires a special kind of commitment where people know each other well. This is why Gladwell says that “…high risk activism is a strong- tie phenomenon” (318). For a freshman, it would be so dangerous to pass resistance information just to anyone on your Facebook or twitter page.
Some trust is important to the people to which such information is sent. There needs to be a strong tie between the people to involve a sensitive message or rather information. Unlike social media, activism has a limited room for conflicts and mistakes and errors.
Many have used social media to rally opposition against the government as in Egypt. A Google employee went to jail for passing opposition messages through Facebook (Gladwell 329). The twitter revolution has greatly helped in ousting Ben Ali of Tunisia as well as in supporting the peace protests in Iran.
These social Medias have been very useful in other cases of resistance all over the world. It true that social media connects people. Facebook, twitter and the internet has become an unbeatable source of information since their invention in the recent past.
If it were not for the technological advancement in communication, Mubarak Hosni would still be reining waiting for free and fair elections (Gladwell 330). This however should have had a backup plan like a snicker net to get information to the public in the event of disconnected internet, insecurity at the media stations or even burn up of newspapers.
With the rapid advancement in technology, specifically on social media, the advent of Facebook, twitter and the internet has greatly affected change in the history. However, this does not mean that technology can change the course of history.
On the contrary, the activities that people carry out using the social media are the ones that change the course of history. Technology is just used as a motivating factor towards the change of the course of history. Many people have used social media to gain more support quickly in carrying out their activities to change some aspects in their societies.
Many demonstrations have eased by use of appropriate technology. The greater effect of technology is the facilitation of revolution in the world of activism. In the world today, many are embracing the use of social media to influence people’s decisions, as well as to gather support thus changing the course of human history.
Gladwell, Malcom. “Small Change: Why Revolution will not be Tweeted.” In Graff,
Gerald, Cathy Birkenstein, and Russell Durst. They Say-I Say. New York: Norton Publishers. 2008. Print.