Malcolm Gladwell, Small Change: Why the Revolution Will not be Tweeted

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Malcolm Gladwell’s article "Small Change: Why the Revolution Will not be Tweeted" raises a significant question about the prospective contribution of web-based social networking to the advent of progressive social movement and change. Gladwell bold declaration that "the revolution will not be tweeted" is reflective of his view that social media has no useful application in serious activism. Contrasting various elements of the “high-stakes” lunch-counter protests in Greensboro, North Carolina in the 1960’s with the “low-stakes” activism achieved through social media, Gladwell concludes that effective social movements powerful enough to impose change on longstanding societal forces require both “strong ties” among participants and the presence of a hierarchical organizations. In contrast, Gladwell characterizes the social networks as an interwoven web of "weak ties" that is inherently devoid of a hierarchy. Gladwell’s prerequisites for social movement are firmly based in strong body of sociological evidence, but his views regarding the nature of online social networks are laughably lacking in foresight and obstructed by a misleadingly selective body of evidence. Gladwells misguided view of social networking is a fundamental error that echoes itself throughout his essay. Social networking websites are not meant to be a form of organization; instead they are designed to be an effective means of communication. Comparing a social site like Twitter to a reform oriented organization like the NAACP is equatable to comparing a telephone to a local branch of government. They are clearly not the same thing and obviously perform two very different functions. Hence, an effective comparison of these two very different tools is practically im... ... middle of paper ... ...ernment as much as the rest of the world does. Gladwell's pointing out that social media is widening the gap between extremes, a true activist and what I'd call true apathy. Our generation, along with those to follow are going to be middle of the road mouse clickers with the disillusion our "like" (in facebook terms) will have a true impact. The real problem with Gladwell's argument is that he is looking at it through an American perspective, the connections we form here in the US on facebook and twitter are indeed superficial because we have so many other ways to connect with people. In many other places around the world, social networking sites, are the only place they have in which they can freely connect with each other. And those connections are not superficial, those connection helped launch uprisings such as the ones in Tunisia and Egypt.
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