Digital Age

Social Activism in the Digital Age

   As the digital revolution rages on, the distance that separates people from each other is lessening at an astonishing rate. The term revolution, used to describe the social activism in the digital age though vehemently opposed by Gladwell (2010) still serves the purposes of this study. While Gladwell may not prefer the use of the term, he too does accept that although weak, a movement has been brought bout through the use of social media.


   The problem with Gladwell’s opposition to the use of social media as an activist tool however is not quite clear. As he starts of the article with an account of the 1960s movement for racial equality, he seems predisposed to dislike modern methods of activism. In fact his article reads somewhat reminiscent of the ‘good ol’days with a disdain for new methods. According to Gladwell, social networks fail to create strong bonds as those between real-life friends, which does not allow passion and commitment to flow through communities as it would traditionally. He is of the view that social media is only capable of creating weak ties and a network that can stir up noise but no substantial action. He takes the example of the Iran twitter revolution into consideration citing that twitter was falsely credited with the role of being a catalyst in the movement since most of the accounts sharing news of the revolution were located in the west and wrote it off as lazy western journalism.


   According to Gladwell such ‘High Risk’ activism can only be brought about by deeply rooted passions and strong personal ties which cannot be facilitated through social media networks. While the role of twitter in the revolution may have been hyped a little too much in the Iranian revolution, Gladwell gravely undermines the movement by clinging to the other extreme. He forgets that there is power in numbers and that twitter did not work as a recruiting tool in the movement but rather one for increasing awareness and facilitating the free flow of uncontrolled information.Twitter gave the power to the people of Iran and even globally to share not only the events but also personal opinions on what was occurring. It allowed images to be shared on social networks which spurred global support for events that people could not quite reach. This awareness was perhaps what garnered support for the movement. He cites his support for a centralized power for the start of a movement such as that of the NAACP and Martin Luther King. What Gladwell must understand, however, is that perhaps it is time to deviate from such centralized powers in order to reach the masses.  Causes such as the racial equality movement of the 1960s could have benefited had they been able to garner global support and international pressure such as that facilitated by the Twitter revolution which forced international leaders to look at the scenario rather than ignore it. The age of the internet as a social activist tool is still new and we’re still in the trial and error phase. Up until now networks have been effective at promoting outreach. What Gladwell must accept is that social networks are not a replacement for social activism but a tool that must be used in conjunction with it.