This week’s readings have given me a greater insight into the history of activism and how movements were created before digital technology.
One of the readings “Small Change”, an article written by The New Yorker, talks about the differences between traditional activism and modern activism with the use of social media. It opened my eyes to how much detail and planning traditional activists had to go into to create a movement. Without the use of modern technology, they had to rely upon face to face meetings. This saw a trend with who joined a campaign because without social media they could only rely on word of mouth from people they were close to, such as friends and family. However, activism today works in a completely different way. The majority of movements that we hear about today are from what we read and see on social media. The information we find out about current movements tends to not come from our friends and family. This has created the idea that our greatest source of new ideas and information comes from people we don’t even know.
Social media has allowed activism and movements to transform into a completely new level. Pages like Facebook and Twitter have helped activists overcome censorship, plan protests, organize logistics, and spread information easily to a wide audience. This could never have happened twenty years ago. Not only is social media important to activists but for anyone around the world watching to understand what is going on.
What I found most interesting when reading “Twitter and Tear Gas”, was learning about the strengths and weaknesses of modern movements engaged by social media compared to traditional activism. It never occurred to me that there could be a disadvantage to movements used by digital technology. Activists in the 1990s relied on email to communicate with one another, which meant there was no visual information such as pictures as we see today. The groups formed focused on participation and horizontalism, which created strong cultural ties between the members involved. This built the foundation to organization depth and experience of tools and culture for collective decision making, strategic and long-term action.
Protests developed by technology rely heavily on digital tools for organizing and publicity which can make the process difficult. Without a formal leader, task groups, and a close bond between participants it can lack the fluidity of traditional activism. This can cause conflict as everyone has their own individual thoughts and expressions. Due to these challenges, it can sometimes stop movements from being able to carry on in the long term.
On the other hand, digital technology has been a huge driving force for activism. Digital networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have brought issues to the front of society and increased social media engagement among citizens. Technology has been vital for modern social movements to reimagine and change the way that protests are carried out.
Without social media, I would not know about the Environmental Movement, which on social media can be known as #EarthDay. Through activists I have learned more about this movement and the need for environmental change in the world today. I have chosen to focus on and research this movement further during the semester.