Essay about Social Media And Its Impact On Contemporary Society

Essay about Social Media And Its Impact On Contemporary Society

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In the wake of the so-called “Arab Spring” and other recent protests, many journalists and commentators have adopted the term ‘Twitter Revolution’ the describe the role of social media in revolutionary or popular activism. The discussion centres around the apparently emancipatory role that social media websites such as Twitter, Youtube and Facebook play in contemporary social movements and in facilitating dissent and uprising in repressive regimes. The mainstream news media have readily approached the emergence of new movements in terms of the social media technologies defining them. However, this discourse has been considered by many to overwhelmingly naïve, hyperbolic and analytically unhelpful when trying to investigate the role that social media actually places in contemporary activism. Yet we should be wary, in dismissing overly-reductive accounts to not dismiss the importance of the transformative effect social media sites have had on contemporary activism. In this essay, I shall begin by outlining some examples of how activists have used twitter and other social networking sites in cases which have been dubbed part of the “Twitter Revolution” and the arguments of those who put forward the case for the social media revolution. Then I shall look at some of the critiques of the discourse around the Twitter Revolution, looking in particular at arguments which stress the importance of not attributing agency to technology over people, before assessing the case made by the most extreme critics such as Malcolm Gladwell who asserts that social media is an inherently unsuitable for mobilising people and pushing for real change. Finally, I shall endeavour to move beyond the hype and show how twitter can be a useful platform for activ...


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...ver could in real life’. The social media activism which succeeds, Gladwell argues, does so not by motivating people to make real sacrifices and risks but by ‘motivating them to do the things that people do when they are not prepared to make real sacrifice’, such as signing online petitions, signing up to donor drives or retweeting images.
Yet Gladwell’s positions is overly pessimistic about the potential of social media as a medium for activism. There is nothing wrong in pointing out the various ways in which social media had aided revolutionary and popular social movements. After all, undoubtedly, social media has helped activists coordinate actions, get their message out and contest the official narratives of power actors. The kinds of things Morosov has branded these kinds of actions “slacktivism”: ‘a feel-good activism that has zero political or social impact.

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