As consistent social media participants we are regularly bombarded with social activism through these platforms. Social networking has adapted since its development allowing for social activism to take place, where technology is now driving change. The ability to connect on our own terms, is in itself empowering, however it is what we do with this newly found ‘power’ that is truly inspiring and leading to social change.
Participation is important in allowing an exchange, this participation is also addictive, which is why these platforms have been so successful in facilitating a connection. Juxtaposing legacy media, social networks roles are to mobilise, coordinate and disseminate content, thus its use in recent protests and civil unrest is justified. For example Facebook and Youtube heightened the recent corruption in Egypt. The most famous case would be of Asmaa Mahfouz, a 25 year old Egyptian Vblogger, who posted a video on Youtube calling for mass demonstrations against the government. To put it into context, women in these countries are not to be seen driving let alone spear heading a movement.
There are multiple conflicting perspectives that can be taken on the use of social networking for social protest, and it is the perspective of Malcolm Gladwell that has been criticised by Maria Popova (2013) that immensely intrigues me. Gladwell proposes that “the revolution will not be Tweeted – Social media are practically useless when it comes to serious activism. Howard Gardner, a psychologist also critiqued by Popova, states that he finds it “incongruous for a man who has abstained from participation in social media to weigh in our their value for civic action” (Popova 2013), completely undermining the intelligence of Malcolm Gladwell.
More often we are seeing emotionally fueled posts asking individuals to ‘like’ something in order to facilitate this change. Personally, I believe that by obtaining self satisfaction through the process of subtracting a dollar donation for a ‘like’ is an incomprehensible substitution. Urban terminology calls this slactivism.
Furthermore we are now seeing Facebook being used for crisis relief campaigns, the most notable and recent Kony2012. However this trend has lead to the Singapore government design an advertising campaign, emphasising that liking a Facebook photo doesn’t make a difference. Proving that social change cannot be achieved through social networks, rather that it can be used as a platform to aggregate content to enhance the outcome of the external efforts leading towards social change. As shown by the efforts of Asmaa Mahfouz social media can be used to organize an event but it is the physical protest that makes the difference and ignites the change.
For further information regarding the conflict in the Middle East, The Guardian has provided an interactive time line of events.