Is Social Media Helpful??

Recently, during class discussion, many people have held the belief that social media, such as YouTube and Twitter, is not an effective tool for social movements and revolutions. They have argued that these tools really do not make a difference to help further an ulterior goal; however, this is not necessarily true. Although many people may hold the belief that Twitter is essentially useless by Karpf’s description of ‘tactical measures,’ the revolutions that have occurred across the Middle East and North Africa (Tunisia, Egypt, etc.) show that it can have a real impact on mobilization.

Karpf argued that often times Twitter can be ineffective at accomplishing substantial changes and goals due to the fact that it largely relies on tactical measures. Tactical measures tally up easily countable things such as signatures, visits, blog posts, tweets, retweets, shares, etc. in order to give a very superficial estimation on one’s influence using social media (Karpf, 2010, p.151). With this view, having 1 million followers, 1 million tweets, having 1 million people retweet your tweet really does not accomplish anything. Although it may raise awareness, it is not successful at accomplishing an end goal. This seems to be a popular view about social media that isn’t completely true. Although Twitter does contain many easily countable tactical measures, that does not mean it cannot have a true impact.

The revolutions and protests that took place in the Middle East and North Africa exemplify good examples of how social media sites, similar to Twitter, actually can be successful at achieving end goals. In the article, “The Role of Digital Media,” Howard and Hussain discuss the upheavals that occurred in Tunisia and Egypt. Social media websites were used as a way to organize the masses and share information quickly, when the government was actively attempting to shut down all communication. Because these technologies were so new, the government wasn’t completely superior in their knowledge of how to censor them. For this reason, it gave the masses an edge. They could use the collective knowledge of all these people to work together to protect social media websites and communication in a way that allowed them to organize protests and share relevant pictures and videos. By actually mobilizing the masses by showing the injustice through pictures and videos, and then going further to help facilitate the meeting places of these protests, it shows that social media actually is very effective at achieving end goals.

Although some people may believe that sharing a Facebook post, changing a picture, posting a tweet or video, or having many followers is not actually effective at achieving an ulterior goal, they fail to recognize that these things actually can initiate something that is necessary in order to get that goal. For example if all of the protesters were following the same person/ receiving the same tweets, this would help them all stay informed and organize in order to facilitate a change.

Discussion Questions:
Do you think that social media is helpful during political and social upheavals? Why or why not?

Do you think the new social media application, Vine, will be helpful in future movements?  (Vine lets you record/ share 6 second  videos)

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