Since the “dot-com crash”, the new Internet – eventually deemed Web 2.0 by web enthusiasts – mutated and evolved into the giant, interconnected beast of social networks that everyone uses today. The Internet is, make no mistake about it, all about social interactions and social connections.
Recently, my MUO colleague James wrote a bit disparagingly about the potential for Twitter to offer valuable information, or the value that it brings to sparking social revolution. While his point may be true regarding the London riots, it’s hardly true about most revolutionary acts around the world. Social networking sites, tools and forums are providing the world with catalysts for change that will ultimately topple entire regimes.
How Social Networks Serve Revolutionaries
During the Internet’s early days, the easiest way you could find someone that shared your core beliefs or interests was to discover a website. Direct interaction was either non-existent or very limited. I would like to offer up 5 of the biggest reasons social networks have the ability to foster social revolution.
1. It’s Easy To Find Similarly-Minded People
What social networks bring to the table is the quick and easy ability to find a very large population of people in the world that share your beliefs.
For example, Ann wrote a brilliant article listing 3 great tools for searching Twitter for people. One of the best tools is Twiangulate, which lets you search for tweeters that often issue tweets on topics that interest you.
Then there’s Nancy’s article on visualizing Twitter, which included a mention of Twittermap. It doesn’t take very long to see how useful this app is to find other Twitter users near you that share your common interests in promoting freedom where you live.
You can follow local Twitter users, send them private messages, grow your social network and collaborate with other people near you. The ease with which such social networking tools let you connect with other people is the single biggest reason why social networks foster revolution.
2. It’s Simple To Plan & Organize
So how much good does following Twitter users do if the authorities work to prevent you from gathering together in groups to plan out your protests? Well, that leads us to the second reason social networks are so powerful for revolutionaries – they provide you with a place to privately organize and plan.
Facebook groups let you plan out events and other actions, and members of that group can comment.
Another great social networking tool you can use to plan protest events privately is with a shared Google Calendar. To do this, all you have to do is share the calendar with specific people (in the Calendar settings), by typing in their email address.
By providing a shared calendar space, members of your revolutionary group can plan and schedule specific events where everyone in the group can see. You can either set up the calendar so you’re the only person that can add events, or make it truly collaborative by letting everyone add events.
3. It Cuts Across Social Boundaries
Another reason why social sites, like forums in particular, lead to revolution is because these forums cut across boundaries that used to be blocked by geography alone. For example, when you’ve got a forum like WhyWeProtest’s “Free Iran” forum, it becomes clear very fast just how many perspectives you can get on issues regarding individual “freedom.”
Just reading through posts from people struggling for freedom from a powerful regime is a real eye-opener. Online forums provide you with perspectives that may very well open your eyes to things taking place in other countries that you never would have known about. For people living in countries under a strict regime or tight government censorship, that awareness can go a long way toward inciting revolution.
4. It Encourages Freedom Of Expression
The nature of social media – like Facebook and Twitter – provides people with a greater ability to share their thoughts freely and openly.
Reading some of the thoughts and ideas from many of these protestors and human rights advocates, it’s very enlightening to see just how well and clearly people express their discontent with their government when they are given the chance.
Whether it’s on Twitter or Facebook, you’ll find amazing advocacy groups that are making a huge impact by releasing information and facts about dictatorships and their human rights abuses – information that, years ago, would have been more easily covered up and hidden.
Today, thanks to the speed and efficiency of status updates on sites like Facebook and Twitter, these governments are finding it far more difficult to hide the truth from the world.
5. It is Accessible From Anywhere
Finally, the last reason why social networks are so effective at sparking revolution is the fact that access is so difficult for governments to stop. Short of pulling the entire plug on the Internet, governments will do their best to filter and halt the flow of information in and out of the country. However, it is nearly impossible to stop crafty and creative computer gurus from finding a way around the various firewalls that these governments use.
If you have a need to get “outside” of such a constraining situation, make sure to check out my article on using proxies, or a more effective approach may be to use a VPN. No matter what tools you use, the beauty of the Internet and social networking is that it is accessible – and when people can meet and communicate with other people from other countries and other cultures, a very powerful “awakening” can happen. People realize that they, too, have the right as a human to enjoy a life that is free of oppression and fear.
Let us know what you think in the comments below.
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