Blog Post Week 2: Introductions / Setting the Stage

Hi! My name is Grace Morgan, I am a junior at UC Berkeley. I am taking UGBA 192ac where we will be studying social media and social movements.

This week in class we learned a lot about the Global Lives Project, founded and directed by our teacher David Harris. The GLP is library of videos filmed around the world. The videos feature the daily lives of individuals across the globe in an effort to connect people and foster empathy. You can watch those videos here: http://globallives.org/explore/ .

This weeks readings focused on social media and whether or not it is actually a tool for political and evironmental movements. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2015 65% of adults in America engaged in social networking cites. After looking at their latest statistics, 86% of 18–29 year olds and 80% of 30–49 year olds use at least one social media platform (http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheet/social-media/). Although there is a significant drop off in social media engagement after the age of 50, the percentage is still very high at 64%. These statistics sound promising for movement members as it means they can reach a majority of America online.

Although it seems like it would be easy to unite people for a cause on networking platfroms like Facebook that now has 2 billion active users (https://techcrunch.com/2017/06/27/facebook-2-billion-users/), people who study social media movements are critical of the apparent success rate that movements appear to have. Jen Schradie, a sociologist with a PhD from UC Berkeley, muses that we may be “cherry-picking” what internet movements to study based on their success rate and ignoring the smaller movements that do not garner as much attention. Schradie writes that although social media movements appear to have no hierarchy and are platforms for equal say for everyone, there is always an organziational structure in the background fostering progress. She explains most of the beliefs and practices of those active on the internet can be classified under her term “silicone valley ideology”, meaning that most internet users desire “free market, free labor and freedom from the state.” This ideology broadly states the goals of most online movement participants, they turn to the social networking cites for more freedom and the feeling that they can make a difference. This may all be a fascade though the more I study social movements. Although there is this idea that it is all free and equal, leaders arise and movements fail with out proper organization. The internet can also promote this false sense of membership. For example, if I share a post from Green Peace about Global Warming I feel like I am doing my part to spread the word and make a difference. But did I actually make sure anyone read the article? Did I even read the article before I hit share? Is any actual difference occuring from me sharing the post? Probably not, but because a couple of my Facebook friends liked the post I feel like I did my part. Although social media is a tool to connect with billions of people, successful movements need organization and leaders that will hold their members responsible and engaged.

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