The Effect of Social Networking on Social Activism

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Malcolm Gladwell, a staff writer for The New Yorker, published an article evaluating the effect of social networking on social activism. Gladwell explains social media’s effect on the foundation of activism. In analysis of several historical social protests, Gladwell notes that the participants have a high degree of personal connection to the movement and are willing to make significant sacrifices or place themselves in “high-risk” situations This willingness to make sacrifice has significantly decreased. Now, a simple click of a button, as in “liking” something on Facebook, is considered involvement. Gladwell recognizes social networks, such as Twitter and Facebook, as scapegoats for effective, motivated activism. Social networking is a source for society to gain access to new ideas and information, but not a tool that will be able to implement systemic change in society. It may serve as an outlet for more people to express themselves, but those expressions tend to have very little impact overall. Gladwell encompasses a conflict theorist perspective, considering the instruments of social media as “well suited to making the existing social order more efficient.” According to Gladwell, it is impossible for revolutionary change to stem from the social media phenomena.

I have a Facebook account and am an active participant in social media. I have 798 “friends” in the context of Facebook. My “friends” range from family and close friends, to someone I may pass on the street and not even recognize. It is obvious that the range of my “friendships” on Facebook are expansive and variable. Most of these relationships are considered “weak ties.” Being connected in this way may increase my awareness of various people’s interests or passions on issues, but I rarely find myself compelled to become involved. I hesitate to say I would ever find myself willing to risk sitting at a lunch counter with a Facebook friend in a situation like those college students discussed by...
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