Jamie Schwarz: Week 14

I’m going to go out on a limb with my argument this week because honestly I feel very confused by all of the material that we have had to read throughout this course. One author tells us that social networking is responsible for for the most recent of social movements and is an amazing limitless resource that activists now need in order to create a successful movement. Other authors are saying that revolutions happened long before the advent of social media and we are stupid to believe that they are the key source in revolutions occurring today. The argument that I want to make with the support of this week’s Gladwell and Cohn articles is that we truly have no clue as to the power of social media and the only thing that will be able to prove if it works or not is time.

I liked Gladwell’s article in particular this week because he never sugar coats his argument. “People with a grievance will always find ways to communicate with each other. How they choose to do it is less interesting, in the end, than why they were driven to do it in the first place.” (Gladwell) What he is saying is that we need to stop focusing on the role of social media in a revolution and instead concentrate on why these revolutions are happening in terms of the issues that people are having. He referenced the French Revolution in order to prove that word of mouth is the actual method of gathering people and social media has forged its way as the substitute for word of mouth. To add to his argument, I believe that revolutions would occur without the advent of social media, but these websites do bring more people to the protests or the rallies and those people are the ones who create the image that social media is an important tool. The people who genuinely care about the revolution are going to revolt regardless of if they have the support of their Twitter followers.

Moving on to the Cohn article, it begins by talking about how America.gov became obsolete because social networking did a better job of reaching the people. Also, social media cuts out the “chunkyness” or traditional government correspondence by simplifying the message. I can’t help but to criticize the government for lowering itself to the level of activists sitting alone in their parents’ basement tweeting about how corrupt a system is although they haven’t left their house in weeks. The entire article is hypocritical because it fails to mention why the government needs to keep up with social networking and that is because they are falling short of communicating effectively to the people in the absence of social networking. It is a cop-out and shows the lazy nature of the government. They are taking the example of activists and revolution leaders abroad in order to better their communication. It just seems really silly to me.

The question that I want to pose is basically if you agree or disagree with my argument that at this point in time we can not accurately gage the power of social networking. In such an early stage it is easy to credit social media with being this unbelievable source that will change how the world gathers, but are we ignoring the long-term uses?

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4 Responses to Jamie Schwarz: Week 14

  1. Short term, I agree. I don’t think we really know the power of social media tools for the following reasons,

    1. It’s too new. A decade of exploration with a new technology is nothing in the long run.
    2. It’s quantifiable / more quantifiable than past technologies such as the telephone or telegram. Therefore, people are **rushing to make conclusions based on **any data. Incorrect calculations / not enough data.
    3. Psychologically we feel most comfortable with explanations. For positive or negative outcomes we want to point to something. We need something to take credit for or blame what has happened. Misattribution.

    All 3 lead to false assumptions of the Internet and social media tools.

    With that said, I think we do need to go out on extreme limbs, be highly inquisitive and even make forwardly-astounding, strong claims about the Internet and perceived power of social networking tools. Little will be accomplished by pitter pattering around the issue for decades, waiting for the singular correct theory to emerge. It’s up to us to discover such theory, which is exactly what we’re doing.

  2. ** To be clear, I am frustrated by such different points of views / theories, overgeneralization, misattribution and so on. However, it also may be the best way to uncover the truths, as I am assuming there will be different guidelines for the use / advantage / disadvantage of social networking tools depending on the context, specific social tool, etc…

  3. cnspin12 says:

    When I read the first paragraph of your post, I was in complete agreement and so glad that someone was able to put into words what I had been feeling all semester. It is ridiculous to think that a few blog posts and status updates have so much influence over people in order to start a revolution, when in actuality it is the feeling behind people’s actions that matter. It is a natural instinct to need an explanation for something — and a simple one at that. Social media played a large, visible role in these revolutions because that is how people talked, so naturally they quickly became the reasoning behind the revolts. People’s dire need for reasons and explanations overshadowed the reality behind the events to a point of misattribution of blame. After doing all of our readings this semester, we have reached no conclusion about social media — is it the reason for the revolutions? Is it completely independent? Is it merely a tool? We don’t have a solidified stance, which if anything further defends your point. We cannot blame anything on social media, nor can we credit it with the solution for anything. It is just there, it is a misunderstood force that we don’t quite understand, yet we think we do.

    The only thing that we do completely understand right now is time but how quickly we forget that we have it. We have the time to test the waters and understand what social media is all about and the powers that it has. We just need to wait it out and see.

  4. emilythibodeau says:

    I agree that it is too early to give social media the power it is often given. I think many individuals may be interested in the idea that social media is readily available and user friendly, and thus imbue it with more power to change long standing government structures, etc. than it actually has. I think until more research is done and social media has existed for longer, it is impossible to draw actual conclusions. While the points of view we have seen in class are interesting and obviously well researched, given that key websites such as facebook and twitter have not even existed for a decade, it is impossible to really know the truth about social medias impacts.

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