How Much Does Social Media Change?

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In his article, “Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted,” Malcolm Gladwell discusses how with today’s social media, activism is changing and perhaps becoming less effective as people take “small risk” actions. He does not deny that social media is useful to support an already existing argument, but he doubts its capability of committing actual, groundbreaking change.

It is true that posting something on Facebook and Twitter are far less striking than pouring out on the streets to physically join a protest, however it still rather useful. What social media does is, it creates a mid-ground for people supporting a certain cause. In traditional ways of activism, there are two evident alternatives to show your support, either to go out and demonstrate, or to stay at home. The problem with this is that people who refute a cause and people who support it but are not willing to get themselves into a high risk situation appear the same as they both will be staying at home and doing nothing. However with social media, this changed. People who are not willing to be out on the streets can still contribute by helping spread the word. As an example, this was very evident in the Gezi Parkı protest in Turkey in 2013, where numbers of doctors willing to help, the police-free routes and many other useful information were shared, and the key point was that it was not censored by the government and allowed free speech. And though sharing this information causes little to no actual change, it still shows support and becomes useful for people who are passionate for their purpose. People who are committed enough to join demonstrations will do so regardless of the existence of social media, the numbers are not limited nor declined by it. Instead, people who probably would  have done nothing are allowed to play a part, which is always useful.

Of course, there are lots of issues with communication through social media as well. Provocations, false information and a racket caused by endless voices are undeniable facts, however, with attention to sources of information, this can be reduced to a minimum.

Overall, Gladwell’s arguments on social media are generally accurate, but perhaps a bit undermining. If we consider the alternative of “tweeting” information as staying at home glued to the TV, it is obvious how social media can be useful. Creating a platform where freedom of speech and fast communication exists can be very beneficial if used carefully. After all, every bit of contribution counts when trying to achieve actual change.

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