Posts Tagged ‘social media’

Malcolm Gladwell, Egypt, and Social Media

With all that is going on in Egypt and all over the rest of the Arab world, Malcolm Gladwell is focusing on the most important thing: He’s making sure nobody gives Twitter and Facebook too much credit for this, since we all know that social media is useless when it comes to affecting social change:

“But surely the least interesting fact about them is that some of the protesters may (or may not) have at one point or another employed some of the tools of the new media to communicate with one another. Please. People protested and brought down governments before Facebook was invented. They did it before the Internet came along. Barely anyone in East Germany in the nineteen-eighties had a phone—and they ended up with hundreds of thousands of people in central Leipzig and brought down a regime that we all thought would last another hundred years—and in the French Revolution the crowd in the streets spoke to one another with that strange, today largely unknown instrument known as the human voice.”

Is there something weaker than straw? I am honestly flabbergasted that someone as bright as Gladwell wrote these words. NOBODY IS CLAIMING THAT SOCIAL MEDIA INVENTED SOCIAL PROTESTS. STOP ARGUING WITH A CLAIM NOBODY ON THE PLANET HAS EVER ONCE MADE. This is like saying, “People got from one place to another before cars. Our ancestors who crossed the Bering Straight had nothing but their own two feet! So who gives a shit about a cars?” Continue reading

Monday Medley

What we read while regifting…

Monday Medley

What we read while deciding not to publish our own story about not having sex with Christine O’Donnell…

  • Speaking of statistical analysis, the Mets hired sabermetrics-advocate Sandy Alderson as their new General Manager this week. Here is an extensive (and excellent) interview of Alderson back when he was CEO of the Padres. Rumor has it that he’s going to bring along Paul DePodesta to the front office, who was prominent in Moneyball (a book we’ve invoked a few times so far), and has his own blog.

Whose Ties Are You Calling “Weak”?

In this week’s New Yorker, the estimable Malcolm Gladwell takes, among other things, umbrage at the idea that tools of social media, like Twitter and Facebook, can be used for social activism. This idea has been popular for over a year now, dating back at least to the so-called “Twitter Revolution” in Moldova last year, as well as the site’s role in Iran’s 2009 elections. Gladwell, however, insists the “weak ties” promoted by these sites can never effect real social change. He compares it to the civil rights activism of the 1960s, in which “participants were far more likely than dropouts to have close friends who were also going” down South. This kind of activism—what Gladwell calls “high-risk activism”—is about strong ties.

As usual, Gladwell’s piece is brilliantly written and very compelling, but I’m afraid he falls into the same trap that many critics of modern social media are stuck in: this false dichotomy between “strong” and “weak” ties. It is indeed true that Facebook and Twitter are not built to maintain “strong ties” (like the ties between the four Greensboro students who began the Woolworth’s sit-ins, who were roommates). In fact, Gladwell provides as good a description of the uses of these sites as I’ve seen: Continue reading

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