I believe that many Americans hold the ‘cyber-utopian’ belief that social networks have been a leading factor in social activism and worldwide revolution. I contend that American media coverage, some misunderstanding of foreign events, and a general over optimism in collective action through social media, the effects of social media networks are overstated. Both of the readings this week speak in regards to Twitter’s overstated significance in the “Iranian Twitter Revolution.”
Morozov argues that many Americans/Westerners held the belief that Twitter had an extremely large role in the revolution but are misinformed. He mentions the difficulty of packing contextual information in 140 characters or less and he also states that it is also unwise to look past to ‘Telephone’ qualities of Twitter. He also argues that authoritarian governments are able to reverse the effectiveness of social media and use it for their advantage. He says, “A Twitter revolution is only possible in a regime where the state apparatus is completely ignorant of the Internet and has no virtual presence of its own.” He calls for people to understand how Twitter is actually operating in events such as Iran, instead of giving it too much credence.
Gladwell’s piece relates new social media technologies, such as Twitter, to the social activism that fueled the Civil Rights era and events such as sit-ins. He contends that Twitter and the Internet allow us to develop many ties and diffuse information at great efficiency, but he also claims social networks are built around weak ties that “seldom lead to high-risk activism,” such as the racial and oftentimes dangerous civil rights protests. In my opinion, this allows movements to gather a lot of ‘support,’ but not necessarily action. It is really easy for people to Tweet about an event, such as Kony 2012, but there is no further activism or motivation to participate and carry out the strategic aspects of the movements.
Overall, I tend to agree with both Morozov and Gladwell that Twitter’s effectiveness was highly overstated. However, do you think Twitter will be effective in the 2012 Election cycle where short messages, such as reminders to vote, will be instrumental in actually getting people to participate? Is slactivism just as big of an issue for domestic movements?