Check out this blog post on GIGAOM, written in response to claims by Malcolm Gladwell (author of The Tipping Point) that social media is irrelevant when it comes to “real activism”: Gladwell Still Missing the Point About Social Media and Activism. The comments in particular are very interesting.

For me, the key paragraph in the post is this:

But as sociology professor Zeynep Tufekci argues in a blog post responding to Gladwell — and as we argued in a recent post here — the point is not that social media tools like Twitter and Facebook cause revolutions in any real sense. What they are very good at doing, however, is connecting people in very simple ways, and making those connections in a very fast and widely-distributed manner. This is the power of a networked society and of cheap, real-time communication networks.

Personally, I think many people are missing the point. No-one is seriously claiming social networks caused, for example, the Egyptian uprising. That was down to decades of brutal political repression and worsening economic conditions. But social networks – in particular Facebook and twitter – were an effective tool used by:

  • activists/protesters to help organize the demonstrations and communicate during them
  • journalists and bloggers and activists to share information from Egypt with the outside world

Whether the uprising could have taken place without the use of social media is a moot point. But to dismiss the role of Facebook and twitter as irrelevant is ridiculous.

What do you think?

[thanks to Cheri Lucas for sending me the GIGAOM post]