Moderate Ties: A Compromise for Social Activism

In our lives, we see scenarios where approaches are better applied to some situations than others. This idea is portrayed through the arguments presented by Marshall Poe in The Hive and by Malcolm Gladwell in Small Change. In The Hive, Poe reflects on his own personal experience where he had his Wikipedia reputation preserved by people he didn’t even know. Gladwell’s weak ties are relationships built through the use of social media. While Poe believes that these weak ties are essentially what will lead to greater sociability and progress in society, Gladwell argues that strong ties supply a real devotion to what one believes.

Compromise —

The indirect argument created between these two writers displays how certain approaches are better applied to their respective situations depending on said situation’s severity and importance; thus, almost demanding a compromise.

Weak Ties Flaws

The role of weak ties in social change is primarily to spread awareness, rather than forming devotion. Weak ties include the distant relationships with those we do not usually associate with except for on social media: Facebook friends, Twitter and Instagram followers, and the random accounts we may follow. We witness Poe’s appreciation for his fellow Wikipedians who saved his page in his closing lines,

“Bear in mind that I knew none of these people, and they had, as far as I know, no interest other than truth in doing all of this work. Yet they didn’t stop with verifying my claims and approving my article” (Poe 13).

Though I agree Wikipedia does well with bringing individuals together to create change, it lacks the ability to evolve into large scale change due to its weak tie format. Gladwell argues against weak ties and how social media forming these almost undermines some activist movements.

Do we need enough eyes?

Today, people think that numbers of individuals in activist movements makes them stronger rather than the true devotion of the activists. I feel as though a movement driven by individuals with motives and real devotion has greater meaning and portrays a more powerful message. Gladwell alludes to a similar idea to show that more people unaware of what a movement is for makes said movement shallow — an ironic reflection on Eric S. Raymond’s quote,

“Given enough eyes, all bugs are shallow” (Poe 5).

People are easily brought together, but something is missing in order to get them to act devotedly. What activists need are strong ties, or relationships to the movement, meaning either them or people close to them are heavily affected by what they are trying to change. This can be related to movements such as the bus boycotts, where people depended on public transportation to get to work.

Civil Rights Marches —

Strong ties give movements deeper meaning, but with weak ties, movements can attract people who do not know much on what they are acting for, who want to just find something to complain about, or who want to just interfere with the integrity of the movement. While numbers can talk, real action comes from individuals who are devoted to what they are acting for and wish to make a long-term change.

Drive! Drive! Drive!

I agree that Wikipedia and other social media platforms are effective forms of action, but it lacks the true drive to act that will make considerable change over long periods of time. This drive which Wikipedians are lacking comes from strong ties leading to devotion and change. Because sites like Wikipedia,

Twitter, and Facebook are not of high-risk activism, the weak tie layout of its connection medium is more convenient for the public and people are more willing to act. While weak ties can create a low-risk activism environment, most times it is not the environment needed to make strong statements. Gladwell argues that strong ties are a necessity for powerful, devoted activism. Most importantly, it is much needed in high-risk activism. Through Gladwell’s analyses, we see that when we have close relationships with others acting, we are more likely to act as well because we want to help. I agree that strong ties are required when it comes to high-risk, severe situations, such as the civil rights movement, but what if there was a happy medium between the two kinds of ties.

Moderate Ties

In a“moderate ties” format, the leaders of the movements obviously have strong ties to the situation, like in the civil rights movement or women’s rights movement. They are facing a high-risk in both of these situations because of their positions as catalysts of controversial movements. Strong tied persons are the ones who have been heavily affected by the movement or others close to them have. Weak tied individuals are one whom have seen the time and place of meetings and rallies, have read up on the movements, and wish to make change. The strong tied individuals will move mountains with their devotion and strength and the weak tied ones will be the ones that essentially spread awareness and allow the movement to speak with numbers.

Diagram of Weak and Strong Ties —

The Happy Medium

The concept of social activism has been demanding change for decades now and I feel I have presented the compromise it requires. With weak tie networks, movement awareness and support is easily accessed by the general public while with strong tie hierarchies, movements are given a larger meaning than just numbers and they have a structured and organized format to better work on advancing their cause. This way, voices will be heard and decisions will be made based on general consensus, as well as the ideas of leaders of the hierarchy. I believe with numbers and priorities, social activism will be more effective than it ever was; thus, making it of the utmost importance we apply these “moderate tie” foundations.