Teresa Ovalle

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Revolution is in the Air

on April 3, 2014

I think Twitter is an extremely versatile social media tool that can bring people together to support a particular cause, but I think more times than not, that’s all Twitter will do. I think the only way it will cause people to create change is when that particular community is at a culminating point – it’s ready to explode – and people are ready to support the cause by physical involvement and movement.

In his article, Small Change, Why the Revolution Will Not be Tweeted, Malcolm Gladwell discusses how four black college students walked into a Woolworth’s on February 1, 1960, sat down in a designated ‘white’ area and would not leave until the store closed. This amazing group of young people started a revolution. Little did they know that the next day, the number of college supporters would grow. Each day thereafter, the crowd continued to grow, and the movement spread to other cities across the south. All this happened without social media – Twitter in particular.

Gladwell seems to think that the next revolution will not be affected by Twitter. I disagree. I think the next revolution will be influenced by all social media platforms, especially Twitter. Twitter is fast, and tweets can spread like wildfire. People are getting their news on Twitter, and they also use Twitter as a connection platform, so it’s a very versatile tool. Twitter is also very accessible. Just about everyone has it on their smart phones.

I think two of Gladwell’s challenges regarding the stand he chose for this article were that 1) he did not look beyond the borders of the United States and 2) he did not consider Obama’s presidential campaign as a revolution.

Starting a revolution is a process. It has to build momentum; it has to be a popular movement among the people, and more times than not, the supporting population is angry about something – usually a limiting factor regarding a central freedom. (How to Start a Revolution) There hasn’t been a time in my lifetime that these circumstances have been met and culminated in the United States. In other words, there hasn’t been a need for anyone to use Twitter to start a revolution in the U.S. because the general population has not been angry enough to want to get involved in a particular issue – unless you consider Obama’s first presidential campaign as a revolution.

These are the 10 steps to start a revolution. (How to Start a Revolution)
1) Know your goal.
2) Build Support and consensus.
3) Educate yourself and others about every aspect of the idea of the revolution.
4) Understand that one of the most important aspects of a revolution is that the people are angry.
5) Put together intentions which must be very popular among the population.
6) Find like-minded people who are mostly for action.
7) Take action.
8) Work for collective liberation, because everyone’s liberation is tied to each other’s.
9) Demonstrate the popularity of the movement to the people of power, legislature, and military.
10) Realize that a drastic political or social revolution is almost always about freedom.

After reading the 10 steps above, it’s easy to see how I consider Obama’s first presidential campaign a revolution. People were angry with the previous administration, and they were desperate for something new. Obama’s team tapped into that, and the culminating effect was his election to president.

Although Twitter was not the only platform used to win Obama the election, David Meerman Scott, author of The New Rules of Marketing and PR, discusses how social media was instrumental in him winning the seat. (pg. 163-167) I deduce that Twitter was involved.

Interestingly enough, Clay Shirky, the author of The Political Power of Social Media: Technology, The Public Sphere, And Political Change chose to point out to his readers that Twitter was used in a number of revolutions around the world. His article overwhelmingly convinces the reader that Twitter is very much an instrumental tool in a revolution. At one point, Shirky states that, “Indeed, the best practical reason to think that social media can help bring political change is that both dissidents and governments think they can.” (pg. 10) It’s difficult to agree with this statement. Even a placebo works if you believe in it.

Shirky then states, “And the governments they contend with think social media tools are powerful, too, and are willing to harass, arrest, exile or kill users in response.” (pg. 10) If someone is willing to harm someone else over a particular issue or tool, then there is fear that the issue or tool is valuable and can cause harm in return.

Twitter is a powerful tool that can spark a revolution anywhere in the world, to include the United States, but the timing has to be right for the campaign to be effective. Otherwise, it’s just another social media platform connecting people in the usual way. No harm, no foul.

Malcolm Gladwell – The Revolution will not be Tweeted: GladwellTweeted.pdf

How to Start a Revolution.

Groundswell Expanded Edition – Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff

Clay Shirky response – The-Political-Power-of-Social-Media-Clay-Shirky.pdf