Weak Tweets

The message in these readings is that social media sites are not capable of creating revolution, which seems somewhat kind of obvious after reading them. Anything put up on Twitter or Facebook can be found by the government. It does not make much sense to plan a protest via tweeting because the government can find those tweets, stop the protest, and punish those directly involved as Morozov suggests. Social networking sites also breed slacktivism, as we have previously discussed. They work by using weak ties to get people “involved”. As Gladwell states, they are great for increasing participation, not activism. It takes no effort to get a few hundred thousand people to like a Facebook page, but it takes quite a bit to get even thousands to march in protest. Gladwell says that high-risk activism is a strong tie activity. This is so because it takes courage to take a high-risk and people need the support of others they know well and trust. Twitter and Facebook do not create strong tie networks. They are all about maximizing weak ties.

Another issue more specific to social media use in Iran, is that a majority of us do not understand Iranian culture well enough to be able to accurately decipher a message. According to Morozov, it’s like a game of “telephone”. As the message travels from blogger to blogger, it gets contorted and the meaning changes. Since American journalists are banned from Iran, they rely on these blogs for their information. Another issue with this is that a the people who use Twitter in Iran are a small and extremely untypical group. However, Howard indicates that social media sites are not totally useless and counterproductive. Although they do not directly lead to social revolution, he argues that they are necessary for it to happen in the Middle East and also serve to prolong it once the revolution has started. This slightly different viewpoint brings up the question that I am asking you guys which is: contrary to what the other readings have told us, do you think it will ever be possible to have a social revolution through social media? For this question assume the group in power has a virtual presence and is aware of the power of the Internet.

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