The Pessimism Behind Social Media Use

The potentiality of the Internet has been of question all semester. What can the Internet achieve and how can it achieve it are of much debate. The Arab Spring provides an example of the ways in which the Internet can be of service in mobilizing revolutionary efforts. However, Morozov and Gladwell are hesitant to gloat of the successes of the Internet. Their hesitancy comes from social media being a tool for revolution, not the revolution. The application of their arguments to this idea advances the understanding of the larger picture and what the Internet can achieve.

Morozov argues that searching for technical solutions, or quick fixes, through the Internet, for problems that are inherent social is largely detrimental to the democratic process (305). However, if technical solutions are not viewed as the quick fix to the social problem but a way to solve the social problem, success can be achieved. Morozov believes that politicians or policy makers become enthralled with the idea of the seductive quick-fix and lose the will to participate in reframing non-technological social problems (305). I agree that there no substitute for on the ground activism and involvement and that not every problem is technological. However, I largely disagree with Morozov. As Karpf had previously mentioned, distinguishing between tactics and strategy is critical to the successes of the Internet. If there is a lack of distinguished difference, then yes, using the Internet as a tool is detrimental in “attacking symptoms” not the root causes (Morozov 304). But employing the Internet as a means to achieving a goal can be both helpful and useful.

Similarly, Gladwell insists that the ways in which people bring down governments is far less interesting that the actual act of bringing down governments (2). This discounts the power of Internet, but does successful employ Karpf’s argument. Gladwell seems to be saying, who cares about the tactics, we care about the strategy. Though limiting in it’s own regard, Gladwell does not discount the Internet, but instead chooses to focus on the ways in which social change is achieved.

As we studied in class, there are many different outcomes in the different countries participating in the Arab Spring. Do you feel this is a reflection of the Internet and how it was used or the environment that it was being used in? What factors hinder or exacerbate the successes of the Internet? 

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1 Response to The Pessimism Behind Social Media Use

  1. sdkusin says:

    I think that the variety of different outcomes in various Middle Eastern countries that collectively comprised Arab Spring is both a reflection of the affordances of the Internet and how it was used within the specific contexts in which it was employed. As we saw in our readings and in today’s Skype lecture, while the Internet and SNS may have played a tactical role, it seems negligent to attribute the success of some of the Arab Spring movements directly to the Internet or SNS. To do so would be to take the position of a technological determinist. In addition, social movements have been successful in the past and continue to successful without access to the Internet or SNS. In Egypt, true activism only occurred after the gov. shut down the Internet, forcing citizens to take to the streets in order to learn about the continuing protests. I believe that there are a plethora of factors that influence the success of the Internet in promoting social movements. As we learned in the Skype lecture today, everything from the number of youth in a region to the Internet knowledge of the regime can influence the significance of Internet campaigns in promoting social movements. Thus, while the Internet and SNS can prove important tactical tools, they cannot be considered strategic measures of a social movement.

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