Gladwell’s main premise is that social change and political action requires strong ties between connections. The Civil Rights Movement is shown as an excellent example. He also assumes that Twitter and Facebook consist of loose connections, the kind of which are unsuitable for real change.
The events in Egypt over the past three weeks are proving the contrary. Twitter and Facebook have become integral in organizing upheaval and reporting on the events. Social Media did not cause the uprising, but it did accelerate the process, lent courage to protestors and communicated the events with the outside world. Gladwell was wrong for the following reasons:
The Cause Builds Connections
Just because I only see Jimmy Johnson from High School on Facebook, does not mean I can’t create a strong connection with him on an issue we both strongly believe in. It’s the cause that creates solidarity, not the strength of the connection. I would gladly march hand in hand with my loose connections in support of free speech or women’s rights.
Emboldened By Numbers
In a country like Egypt where demonstrations are continually cracked down on, the power of social media to organize a large protest provides individuals with a sense of safety and courage. We Are All Khaled Said, a group started in June 2010 in response to an Egyptian youth Sa’id, who was beaten to death by two Egyptian policemen in the street has over 47,000 likes. This allows individuals to realize that there are others out there like them with the same concerns and passions. In a country where state media is a tool for brainwashing, social media provides an outlet for understanding the true thoughts of fellow citizens.
The Truth Will Emerge
Activism and revolution are not just about the activists. The ability of the world to listen, watch and read about the events prevents the ability of the authorities to control the message. It allows for political pressure to build and for change to happen. Even in the midst of a total internet blackout, tweets from journalists and citizens were making it to the rest of the world. Egyptians were even using workarounds to access the internet. Even with total internet shutdowns, social media cannot be stopped. In essence, no matter the circumstances, the revolution WILL be tweeted.