This posting may be out of synch with our class discussions but I came across this blog today and it offers comment on slacktivism – the accusation that social media really does not effect change because it is easy for people to sit behind computers and click “like” without making any real commitment. It is part of the criticism that Malcolm Gladwell made in his commentary in the New Yorker when he compared this to courageous activists who bravely fought for racial equality in the deep south during the 1960s . This was one of the references in Linda Komori’s posting, Cute Cats and the Arab Spring.
I like Gladwell’s writings but I couldn’t help but think he may have missed an important point on this one. While we will never know for sure, I wonder if a quiet majority of people had had access to the Internet and used it to tell elected officials that they wanted change, what impact it may have had. I’m not suggesting it would have or could have replaced the hard sacrifices people made in that important movement. I don’t think change would have happened without the actions of people like Ezell Blair and his supporters from North Carolina A.&T. And while their actions spread quickly, social media might have provided another powerful message behind those actions. No doubt mainstream media hampered the delivery of messages of those who were protesting for change – social media would have provided a channel that those in control could not have stopped.
It is said that the only thing needed for evil to triumph is for good men to stand by and do nothing. Perhaps those likes and links on social media are a way for good men to do something – if it is not within their abilities to take any other form of action.
The toppling of corrupt regimes as we have witnessed this past year didn’t happen just because of social media, but social media did play a role.