Malcolm Gladwell states that social media cannot cause social change, stating that the weak-ties created by social media participation and the low-levels of engagement are not sufficient to produce revolutionary change.
The evangelists of social media don’t understand this distinction; they seem to believe that a Facebook friend is the same as a real friend and that signing up for a donor registry in Silicon Valley today is activism in the same sense as sitting at a segregated lunch counter in Greensboro in 1960.
Anil Dash counters, saying the makers (and participants online are changing the fabric of our lives, and the next revolution may not be immediately recognized:
It wasn’t the birthers or the truthers who earned the nod for helping shape America’s future: It was the makers. Their protests, their sit-ins, take the simple form of making things and sharing them with each other, online and off. The quietness of their ways, the heads-down determination of the scientist instead of the chin-jutting attitude of the street fighter, might make them easy to overlook. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not a significant and enduring movement. it doesn’t mean the will of these millions of people doesn’t count, simply because it’s expressed in a way that doesn’t look like protest did five decades ago.
Best of all, the people who actually make these things happen aren’t just sitting around clicking “Like” on things online. As has been true since the earliest days of the blogosphere, the best minds in social media get together in person to help plan the future.
4chan (link, history and credited memes, links possibly NSFW) is mostly a wretched hive of scum and villainy, but there are bright spots. The collective known as anonymous has tackled several iconic groups, from the Tea Party to Scientology (previously) to ACS:Law to the RIAA and MPAA. In each case, the actions may be seen simply as immature pranking, hacking, or trolling, but underlying each is a subtext of activism against unpopular social, political, legal, and economic stances. If the point of non-violent resistance is drawing attention to a cause as well as economic and social disruption, then doesn’t 4chan fit the bill? Can a distributed denial of service (DDoS) with the Low Orbit Ion Cannon (LOIC) be the new Woolworth lunch counter or Atlanta Bus Boycott?
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