Small Change: Why The Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted

1895 words - 8 pages

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’s 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.
Gladwell’s 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 impossible. Perceptible demonstration like marches, sit-ins, and boycotts were usually undertaken by groups of people in the Black southern community who shared a deeply rooted common culture and social experience. The specific examination of the Greensboro, N.C. lunch counter sit-ins that ignited a wave of similarly executed sit-ins throughout the 1960 was accredited to the strong personal ties amongst the initial Greensboro students. Two were roommates and all had gone to the same high school and shared a wealth of common experiences ranging from smuggling beer into the dormitory to the remembrance of the injustices at Little Rock. The idea of a month long Woolworth sit-in was initially discussed in the dormitory in a most informal manner. This evidence inexplicably presented by Mr. Gladwell is in complete contradiction to his statement requiring a hierarchy in which national or local leaders and organizations operating in a hierarchical arraignment were essential to the development of significant social change.
Debunking the myth of hierarchical necessity brings us back to the original question regarding the role of social media in propagating societal change. Gladwell elegantly states that social media is "not a...

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