Many complain about how our generation doesn’t care about change, or activism. The reality is that we’re involved in many movements, but just not in the same way as our parents. As Gladwell discusses in his article in The New Yorker, social activism has changed since the Civil Rights Movement. Gladwell discusses the differences in the generations’ activism through the lens of relationships and what the strength of those relationship means for a movement. Gladwell says many movements before social media involved “strong-tie/high-risk” actions. This meant that people used riskier methods to instigate change because they had strong relationships with the people they were in the movement with; these ties could convince people to act riskier because there’s more trust between those involved. This climate is very different from today, according to Gladwell. Social media’s rise to prevalence in the activist sector has created more “weak-tie/low-risk” actions, meaning people aren’t as connected with the people they’re acting with and not acting in a way that could really harm them. When there are weak-ties people within the movement may not be confident that the 500 Facebook members who say they’re going to protest in front of City Hall, actually will.
The main example Gladwell uses, the lunch-counter sit-in protest, undoubtedly required stronger ties and strong commitment to the cause, which perhaps might not be attainable today. In the digital age movements come and go so quickly it’s hard to keep people committed long-term. Recent movements that supposedly used social media to organize, like the Arab Spring, were characterized by the media as occurring in a fairly short time-frame.
Another difference between past and recent movements is the awareness and actions of respective governments; this is largely different because of the internet. In Morozov’s article concerning the role of Twitter he discusses how social media has given governments the ability to gather information on rebels easily. “Once regimes used torture to get this kind of data; now it’s freely available on Facebook.” (Morozov, 2009). Though the intel of governments has changed, the reasons for revolution haven’t. Morozv says that a Twitter revolution is only possible in a regime where the state is ignorant and has no virtual presence, but a revolution is often characterized by a government ignorant of the changing political climate. Regardless of how they’re organized ¾ Facebook or real friends ¾ at their core, revolutions haven’t changed.
How else do you think revolutions and movements differ from previous generations? Do you think “weak-tie/low-risk” movements are just as effective as “strong-tie/high-risk?”