Social Media In The New Age

The ‘EuroMaidan’ social media revolution 

The world has dealt with hundreds of revolutions in big and small ways, it has always involved with the world’s history. Revolution is often inspired by activists who desire change and are willing to do whatever to make sure that desired change happens. Activism had changed over the past decade due to new tools and technology. In this new age of technology, activism had become very involved through social networks around the world. Even though the traditional means of activism is still alive, having social media as an option for people to get involved has increased overall participation in different ways. Traditional activism is not the only approach to activism anymore but combining social media and traditional activism together can make a bigger impact rather than just one approach over another.

Both Malcolm Gladwell’s “Small Change” and Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen’s “The New Digital Age” writings compare traditional activism and social activism in both positive and negative ways. With the recent events going on in Ukrian and the EuroMaiden movement, I’ve found that they have combined both the traditional approach and social media as well to reach out the people and get supports.

Spread of information

Traditional activism limits how fast news and information about movements can spread but with the new tools of social networking can make spreading information a hundred times faster. I believe this can be a powerful tool in activism to spread news on a issue and also get people to support the cause as well. Social media allows more participation from people online, which can lead to larger numbers of supports for a cause. Malcolm Gladwell states that social media can increase the participation level by lowering the motivation that is required from the participant. Allowing for lowered motivation can create a large number of people to support and follow a movement, which is important to get the issue known. Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen state in their writing that,

“People not directly involved in the movement can feel a genuine sense of empowerment by doing something, anything, and online platforms offer them a way to chip in and feel valuable, even if what they’re doing has little effect on the ground”.

Social media is a great tool to give people a voice and be heard when others wouldn't give them the choice before. Also it allows people the opportunity to get involved in a small way when they can’t fully put themselve on the line.

Lack of Motivation

Even though social media is a great way to get people involved and increase numbers to the cause, in many causes it lacks the motivation for people to take action on what they say and that’s a key aspect to making change become real. By having the ability to follow so many issues and movements can create a problem for when it comes down to making change a reality and finding supporters who are willing to take physical action. Schmidt and Cohen mentioned in their writing that, “Most people will not identify themselves with a single cause but instead will join multiple issue-based movements…for it will be easier to estimate and visualize their support network but it will be less clear how interested and committed each participant is”. Even though social media can be important for people who can’t get involve physically movements need people to take what they are saying online, and put it into action. Without taking some sort of physical action the movement will just stop and the issue will continue without any change.

Putting it in Action

The Euromaiden movement is a great example of how social media is able to spread this cause, but also at the same time find hundreds of people who are also motivated to take their opinions off social networking and bring them to the streets to force change even further. Social media is used as a source of information about what is going on with different protests and where people can go a support the cause. Carola Frediani, a reporter for , reported that Facebook and other social networking are a more reliable source of information than television. Due to social networks being able to reach so many people at once this increases the number of people involved. NBC news reporter, Ayman Mohyeldin reported that, “The strength and survivability of the movement is partly in its numbers — 2000,00 people”. Social media like Twitter, Facebook and others make it possible for people to voice their opinions and share information then take that and bring it to physical action and make their movement even more well known across the world.

Can Social media have organization ?

Although social activism has lacked organization in past movements, it is now having organization and hierarchies involved. Activist need to have organization and leadership to make protest possible. If there is no leader and everyone is just speaking their mind, no one will make a decision on what to do or what will happen next with the movement. There needs to be some sort of hierarchies to the system. Gladwell stated in his writing that, “Because networks don’t have a centralized leadership structure and clear lines of authority, they have real difficulty reaching consensus and setting goals”. By having this sense of organization and leadership, more goals can be reached and accomplished and change is more likely to happen. Schmidt and Cohen have the same idea in their writing that to be able to make change happen there needs to be a leader to take charge. They stated that, “This aspect of movement-making will retard the leadership development necessary to finish the job. Technology can help find the people with leadership skills- but it cannot create them”. In cases where there is a leader involved in a social movement they are the ones that take the risk that the supporters won’t or cannot. Having that one person to push the cause even further more results can come from it.

Protest Organization

The EuroMaidan movement in Ukraine can be viewed as an example of how the social media sites involved with the protest lack the leadership portion but remain effective with organizing information and telling people about protests and where to go to get involved. Fred Arndt, who writes in an article published in The Epoch Times, finds that the Facebook page “has been used to inform protests in real time about urgent news, discuss plans for current and future actions, as well as share advice such as how to deal with police force”. But at the same time they use leadership and organization on the ground of where the protests are taking place by having buildings designated for people to meet and discuss what will happen next with the protest. Another reporter,Ayman Mohyeldin, found that “success comes from the initiative and discipline of organizers, who have taken over two key buildings adjacent to the square… these areas have been used to host news conferences, rally protestors, coordinate fundraising drives and manage social media contact with sympathizers across ukraine and around the world”.Even though there isn’t just one person leading the whole movement but many people are coming together to contribute to what is going on and working with both social media and traditional activism to make it possible.

Touching the hearts of others

Another important aspect that needs to be considered for both traditional activism and social activism is the connection that people have to the cause and the connection that the people have that they are protesting with. Numerous journalists state how traditional activism is based around a strong tie connection, when social media is mainly a weak tie connection. I believe that both can have either strong ties or weak ties. I don’t think that one has to be just strong and one has to be just weak. Gladwell states that with traditional activism there are strong ties and people show up with “critical friends” when compared to social activism people are more of acquaintances with each other and there is not power behind that unlike traditional activism. I don’t believe this to be true in all causes of activism, EuroMaiden is a great example of this.

A young girl wrapped in a Ukrainian flag lays flowers at a makeshift memorialReuters

The EuroMaiden movement people learn about protests through social media and show up to protest with friends and families. A reporter from The Washington Post, Olga Onuch, stated that “Social networks (and specifically close ties) are key in understanding how people come to join a protest… most participants come with family or friends to the protest”. People who go and protest go with people who they have strong ties with but at the same time the people that can’t take action like others still share the same passion and that is shared through social media. The passion that these protesters share is what keeps motivating them. Other reporters ,like Ayman Mohyeldin, find that even after attacks from the police protesters still stand strong because it fuels the protesters even more and causes that passion to grow deeper.

Revolution is what makes change, and this change comes from activists. With the new tools like, social media, activists are able to use these tools to start having a powerful impact that most people wouldn’t think could have happened. Traditional activism is no longer the only approach to change but combining social media and traditional activism together can make a bigger impact rather than just on approach over another. They both have negative and positives just like everything involved in activism, but combining the two can provide a more powerful impact, and more positive outcomes. Social media is a great way to get people involved and spread information, but activists need more than just that. By having the combination of social media and traditional activism, activists can share their cause on the networks then find people who are willing to put themselves out there for change. Although some movements lack the ability to organize events and protest, it can still be powerful enough to motivate people to get involved.