Illusions On Social Media – Comment on SM Activism


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I wanted to share this comment I wrote in response to a piece by Dr. Pamela Routledge, entitled Four Ways Social Media Is Redefining Activism. If you are interested, Malcolm Gladwell has indicated he thinks that will NOT happen due to the weak ties that are created on social media. I’m in agreement with Gladwell, although my reasoning may be somewhat different.

I actually have several reasons why I believe the power of social media is way less than most people believe. They are briefly alluded to below. First different media affect communication, meaning, and emotional outcomes, and hence, the probablity that people will ACT outside of the social media sphere. Second has to do with the illusory connections and relationships that even erudite and serious thinkers such as Dr. Routledge, take as real. I’ve mentioned elsewhere, and in a book I’m working on that there is great similarity between the Karass and Granfalloons of Kurt Vonnegut and social media, but that must be left for another time.

I agree with Malcolm’s conclusions, although I haven’t spent enough time on his details. My thinking is that clearly the medium DOES affect the message, in terms of meaning on a number of different levels. Clearly a telephone affects meanings differently than if things are face to face, and on and on for each medium. If, for example, Jesus only has the telephone to use to speak to others, would he have acquired such strong ties with them that translated into action? I don’t think so.

Technology mediated communication is simply different, less powerful, and less translated into action on the rest of the world.

To put it simply. If activism involves and can succeed SOLELY by the transmitting of words via social media, then yes, it will work. However, that’s not MY activism. Activism requires action in and on the non-virtual world, and that’s where the problem lies.

From Twitterwords to actually doing something in the world is a HUGE leap. In fact, if anything social media will make it appear that action is not required because it will appear that so many people are talking about the specific issue that things must change.

Illusion, which is a central core of social media. False relationships that are shallow but seem deeper. “Engagement” that isn’t anything but involving cursory attention. and Activisim without activity.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Robert Bacal
Robert began his career as an educator and trainer at the age of twenty (which is over 30 years ago!), as a teaching assistant at Concordia University. Since then he as trained teachers for the college and high school level, taught at several universities and trained thousands of employees and managers in customer service, conflict management and performance appraisal and performance management skills.


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