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Sean Huang
Valerie Fong
English 1T
20 April 2015
Internet Activism is Still The Real Activism
In the discussions of the relationship between Internet Technology and Social Activism,
one of the controversial issues being debated is whether or not social media is helping activists
reach their goal. Malcolm Gladwell, a staff writer of The New Yorkers, in his article “Small
change: Why the Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted,” explicitly argues, “social activism isn’t the
same after social media becomes part of it.” He states, “The world, we are told, is in the midst of
a revolution. The new tools of social media have reinvented social activism” (Gladwell ). While
Gladwell disputes the idea of internet activism, he believes that Internet activism is an instant
fever that creates a short impact but is not sufficient enough to stand on its own. In relationship,
some believe that the Internet is a new tool for activism; for example, Sabina Ibarra Khan, a
social activist blogger, explains in her review, “The Case For Social Media and Hashtag
Activism,” that “People who are activists offline tend to use social media activism as online and
offline organizing strategies. They are the ones committed to a cause, become part of a
movement and stick to the issue until there is change. These are activists who know the power of
social media and use it as a tool to further their cause.” In my opinion, media is a tool to create
more connections and to exchange information. When media is used as an educational resource
for activism, it can open citizens' eyes. Media also helps activists improve their techniques, and
when media is used to find information, it can bring out the news from the front line when it’s
too dangerous to get close. Social media is not going to change how activism works but creates a

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systematic platform to make the movement more efficient and to create a high impact. People
who have the passion and belief will still put their effort into the change and do whatever they
need to do for the change to come.
Creating change isn’t a one-man work; a team of people who are passion and also looking for a
change is required. Activist need to put physically or virtual effort into the project, sometimes
they need to sacrifice their time, money or their life to ignite the change. In the 21st century,
Internet became a virtual platform that we need for everyday living; the convenience of
connecting people with information and exchange voice also gave the activist a new way to set
up their activism. Malcolm Gladwell believes that Activism needs the participant to put
physically them self at risk to fight for a change. Since the Internet is a huge platform for
everyone to share voice and their experience without physically shouting out, people will only
participate behind the screens and not fighting for a physical change. Also, participants are apart
from each other, which is hard to form an effective group to create change. Gladwell said:
There are many things, though, that networks don’t do well. Car companies sensibly use a
network to organize their hundreds of suppliers, but not to design their cars. No one believes that
the articulation of a coherent design philosophy is best handled by a sprawling, leaderless
organizational system. Because networks don’t have a centralized leadership structure and clear
lines of authority, they have real difficulty reaching consensus and setting goals. They can’t think
strategically; they are chronically prone to conflict and error. (Gladwell)

On social media, netizens can talk about activism for a long time without a physical act. Also, the
lack of leadership makes social activism unproductive and unorganized. Through Gladwell's
eyes, social media isn't providing what social activist need to start a social movement.

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To start a movement, citizens need to be aware of their situations and know what they
need to have a better life. All sorts of media are tools to expand their views and decide to fight
for a change or not. During the cold war period, information from outside the Soviet Union was
blocked in all sorts of ways. David Hoffman, a political commentator and a media activist,
teamed up with legendary political speaker Tip O'Neill and the chairman of Soviet state
television and radio, Alexander Aksyonov, to set up a Politburo debate program called “A
Citizens’ Summit.” This program invites citizens from both countries to share and discuss their
views and communicate through media. In his book Citizen Rising, Hoffman talks about how
media is essential for civilizations supporting activism. He describes “It was media that
breached the Iron Curtain with images of life in the West, which led the people living under
Communism to realize they were falling behind the Free World” (Hoffman). Media opens
people's eyes and reaches over the barriers that society can create, and that creates chances for
citizens to be aware of their current situations. The same goes for social media; it helps people
create connections and understand what they need in their community, creating motivation for
people to want a change for their community.
On social media, people post photos, comments, or news, and some activists will also
post their journey toward their dreams on social media. That makes social media a good library
for research and for activists to educate themselves and improve their techniques and efficiency.
Neil Ketchley, a graduate of the University of Oxford, Department of Sociology, has a high
interest in Middle Eastern politics. In Ketchley’s new’s article “How Social Media Spreads
Protest Tactics from Ukraine to Egypt,” he explains how protesters use social media to observe
and create long-term positive effects on their social activism. He explains, “In the absence of
protest workshops and ‘how-to’ manuals, video footage captured on mobile phones in Kiev (and

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elsewhere) and uploaded to social media sites now serves as a repository for protest tactics, to be
studied and adapted by anti-coup protesters thousands of miles away in Cairo” (Ketchley).
Activists study and do research on other militant movements; they share their experiments and
techniques to create plans, which leads to successful activism
When press and television media aren’t allowed to be in the front line where people are
fighting for their rights, the portability of social media is the only way to get down to the danger
zone and let the universe hear their voices. Mackey Robert, a reporter for The New York Times,
is also the author of "Social Media Accounts of Protests in Syria." In this article, Robert explains
that social media is not just a platform for people to exchange ideas on but also one where
activists can voice out their ideas. He states, “While government imposed restrictions on
independent reporting inside Syria make it nearly impossible for journalists to gather information
firsthand, Syrian bloggers and activists are using Twitter to draw attention to what they describe
as witness accounts of the violence and video filmed during the funerals and protests on
Saturday.” When media is blocked and no one can access what is happening in the front lines,
social media becomes more than just a platform to exchange ideas. It becomes a portable
boombox that enlarges the process of activism and the voice of a group of people.

Citizens who are passionate enough to be activists will gather people who have the same
beliefs and dreams and create a change in their community. Social media is not going to change
what activism is, but it can be a valuable tool when people know how to use it. When social
media is used as a platform for exchanging ideas and sharing information, it provides an easy
way of communicating. When social media is used to create understanding and self-awareness, it
gives people a brighter view of issues and awareness of information from around the world.
Moreover, it allows them to compare themselves to other groups of people. When social media is

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used as an educational resource, lots of people’s experiences and thoughts help other people
grow and be stronger, so more changes can be created to make our world even better.

Work Cited

Gladwell, Malcolm. "Small Change - The New Yorker." The New Yorker. N.p., 04 Oct. 2010.
Web. 23 Apr. 2015. <>.

Ketchley, Neil. "How Social Media Spreads Protest Tactics from Ukraine to Egypt." Washington
Post. The Washington Post, 14 Feb. 2014. Web. 13 Apr. 2015.

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Hoffman, David. "Chapter 1: We Don't Have Sex In The Soviet Union." Citizens Rising:
Independent Journalism and the Spread of Democracy. N.p.: n.p., 2013. 15. Print.

Khan Ibarra, Sabina. "The Case For Social Media and Hashtag Activism." The Huffington Post.
The Huffington, 13 Nov. 2014. Web. 15 Apr. 2015.

Mackey, Robert. "Social Media Accounts of Protests in Syria." The Lede Social Media Accounts
of Protests in Syria Comments. The New York Times, 23 Apr. 2011. Web. 15 Apr. 2015.