Social Media and its Impact on Political Activism:
How do we understand the importance of social media in modern political movements? The power of social media can’t be underestimated in today’s political arena. Since then countless activism efforts have embraced the connectivity that social media offers. Its roots are in the impeachment of the corrupt Philippine president Joseph Estrada who stole $80 million from the government. Moments after incriminating evidence was blocked to be opened in his trial, anti-Estrada senators walked out of the impeachment sessions, which started the second EDSA revolution that led to the peaceful overthrowing of President Estrada. On January 17th, text messages were massively forwarded and aided substantially in the arrangement of the over one million strong protest in downtown Manila. The rapid mobilization of such a large amount of people with such ease is something that changes that offer a great amount of power to the people like never seen before. Technology has allowed the disenfranchised to be much closer to the political process & offers a threat that the powerful have never had to consider. What allows power to be consolidated and maintained? The dissolution of checks & balances. Social Media allows the people to effectively promote their common interest as they can wield their immense power and use it to fight corruption, discrimination, and whatever threat they may perceive.
The article “Rousing the Facebook Crowd” by Paulo Gerbaudo expanded on the power of social media, yet what interested me the most was the “evanescent nature” of these social media movements. The “organizational liquidity” that social media offers have presented a problem with efforts falling as fast as they so quickly rose. It’s difficult to relate to the political movements in countries across the globe, but I think everyone in my generation remembers KONY 2012. As fast as that movement rose up, it fell into complete irrelevance within months. Are the movements that fizzle out as quickly as they rose less important? Of course not. It’s one thing to gain a digitally enthusiastic crowd, but it’s much more difficult to maintain it. Digital activism that is backed by hierarchical structure has “much higher levels of digital use than their less hierarchical counterparts.” (Schrader, 4) Movements that properly create AND maintain their social media presence will have the greatest chance of succeeding. To maintain their presence, an efficient hierarchical structure must be pulling the strings.
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