Contradictions in Today’s Social Media Use

In this week’s readings, there seemed to be some important contradictory opinions in terms of the importance of social media. In the Gladwell reading, an important idea is brought up when asking, “Does Egypt Need Twitter?”. When first starting this article, one would assume, “yes, of course!” but after finishing the article, the answer changes. Gladwell reflects on world history and discusses how people were able to overthrow governments and bring about change long before the internet was discovered, which is something that most people today forget (Gladwell). Although Gladwell is showing how the internet is not essential, Cohn shows the opposite by discussing how the United States is turning to social media more than ever before. The way that our society is structured causes us to use social media more than in the past, even when it is not necessary.

Cohn states that the United States archived their site, America.gov, and switched their efforts to social media because that’s where the majority of people are (Cohn). This impact that the United States is assuming social media has on it’s people is similar to the Wilson and Tufekei reading from last week, in which Tahrir Square protests in Egypt were organized. In the case of the Tahrir Square protests, many people learned about the demonstrations through social media, even though activists were punished for what they were doing (Wilson & Tufekei). This awareness still was a motivating factor in the movement and shows just how social media played an important role in the events that transpired. Both the Cohn and Wilson and Tufekei readings some what contradict the Gladwell reading, by showing positive uses of social media in political movements.

The good and bad aspects of social media in today’s society are further highlighted by the Youmans reading, which talks about the four different cases in the Arab Spring. These cases all show how democracy is being limited or prevented by government control of social media and internet use (Youmans). It is important to consider, therefore, just how important social media is. Do you think that today’s political movements would be more effective if there was not internet and people mobilized like they have in the past? Do you think that social media is essential in today’s society due to the amount of people who use and depend on it? Do you think that there is a better alternative?

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3 Responses to Contradictions in Today’s Social Media Use

  1. hansmith91 says:

    I think that a mixture of traditional activism combined with social media activism is the most effective strategy. Initially, social media is good at getting the message out to the public and informing them of a potential issue. When it comes to actually planning specific details of a movement, I don’t feel that social media is the best way. Like you say, democracy can be limited, or even prevented by government control of social media and the internet. Communicating details over the internet exposes activists to potential threats and leaks their private organizational information to anybody who wants to see it. While social media is a fantastic tool for disseminating critical information broadly and quickly, it doesn’t seem to be the best tool for the actual planning and orchestrating of activist events.

  2. arieloz says:

    I disagree with the statement that today’s political movements would be more effective if there was not Internet and people mobilized like they have in the past. I believe the Internet has helped expose people to other cultures and societies, which in turn have opened their eyes to the possibility of reform and change in their system. Iranians are exposed to the political and personal rights that people of other countries have, and now are demanding these rights for themselves. I believe the Internet and social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, have been essential in these reforms by allowing these groups to collectively come together to create a non-violent means of organization. Social media is essential in today’s society because of the sheer number of people that use these platforms. Organizations and protest groups are able to share their messages at a faster and more effective method than ever before to thousands of people worldwide. As a result, this helps spread awareness and recruit new members. I believe that activists will continue to use the Internet and social media to foster support in the future.

  3. Neha says:

    I understand fully where both perspectives of this week’s readings were coming from, but I believe that social media does play a fairly key role in everyday life today, and for some, everyday life does mean being involved in mobilization and revolution efforts. I don’t think it would be fair to say that political movements would be more effective without the internet because SNS have surely assisted in increasing the reach and audience of movements, by whatever scale. Even the smallest, most localized events or happenings have the potential of being spread across thousands of miles and that is a capability that was not possible before. Obviously having more eyes and ears is good to spark interest or even more action among people, but even if information is being sent to an imagined audience, perhaps that feeling of potentially being heard by someone can build morale for those fighting for a cause, influencing them in a more positive way. So, while society was functioning well and effectively before the Internet and without social media, these platforms have definitely contributed to easier and more wide-spread passing of information and awareness.

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