Technology and Social Movements

Social movements are an essential weapon available to people who wish to force societal change. These groups have been pushing society forward forever. The English peasants revolted in 1381, in 1789 the French ones did, the network of networks which comprised the Civil Rights Movement here in the U.S. are all examples of situations where a number of the population reacted against the situation and changed it.

Their means were local, their effects were huge. How much bigger, how much change could be effective with the aid of today’s technology.

Information into the hands of millions in moments

When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 many of the generation stood and watched around the wall as both East and West Germans took the wall apart by hand. The effect was mesmerizing. Years of oppression dismantled in what seemed like moments, though in fact, politicking had been taking place in advance.

If TV was able to do that, Social Media has even more power. The tools available today open a range of opportunity for the movement.

How does social media make things different?

In the first place, social media takes away some of the costs involved. Getting a message out in the past was a complex thing to do. The only route was getting materials printed and handed out. If your cause was subversive, finding someone to actually print your pamphlet might be difficult as there were frequently penalties for the printer. And given that there were costs involved, someone had to find the money to pay the bill.

Social Media opens a route to a mouthpiece without the costs

Getting a message across to millions and millions is not hard on social media and if you really have to, you could do it from a computer in a library somewhere. Websites, blogs and twitter accounts allow everyone to place their message faster than the site owners can remove it.

The computing costs involved are footed by someone else, and even though there are taboo topics, you can get a following before you’re removed even if you message is hate and violence,

Social Media takes a message global

The next powerful thing social media does for a movement is to take it global.  Things which are acceptable here but are still points of discrimination in other countries can be highlighted and brought to attention,

It opens the fiscal floodgates

Social media has the potential to raise huge amounts of money in a very short space of time, and it is money which is instantly available. People can donate to any cause online, there is nothing preventing a donation to a social movement any more than you can stop donations to causes we would prefer are not funded.

It allows connection

Social media also allows the connection of like-minded groups. How much faster would apartheid have fallen were all the anti-apartheid groups affiliated and communicating constantly. If coordinated protests happened across the world simultaneously how much faster would de Klerk’s government have had to make way?

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