Social media has had a huge impact on how we communicate with one another. This impact has affected traditional news media in several ways from a decline in the sales of newspapers to how the cable news networks report on breaking stories. This has caused several newspapers to make the decision to close down. This has caused formerly reliable news networks such as CNN to report “breaking” news based on tweets that appear to be from the scene of whatever breaking news but when these tweets turn out to be inaccurate the public is misled. The biggest issue that happened recently is related to the Boston Marathon bombing.
Social media has also influenced how we define our relationships, share our memories or what we’re doing, how we take pictures, and many other aspects that have just become part of our daily lives and routines. With such wide ranging influence social media would obviously influence how we protest policies and make our voices heard when they need to be heard. Online activism has popped up recently with many different forms.
One of the forms is the traditional petition with a crowd-sourced twist. Change.org has been a major leader in providing people with opportunities to voice their concerns to governments, corporations, and individuals. Some successful campaigns include making sure that the Florida State Attorney’s office filed murder charges against George Zimmerman and having Bank of America reverse their decision to charge their customers a monthly fee for having debit cards. Change.org has increased my knowledge of several issues that have been going on around the world and helped me, in small ways, contribute to making a difference.
Another method has just been asking people to tweet on a hashtag, change their profile picture, or donate money to a crowdfunding site (i.e. GoFundMe, Kickstarter, and indiegogo). These methods have also been useful in helping me learn more about what is happening in regards to issues around the world. Social media has also provided an outlet for some news to reach a larger audience when the traditional news media isn’t reporting it. The latest example of this is the protest in Gezi Park in Turkey.
— Zeynep Tufekci (@zeynep) June 11, 2013
And despite all of these larger examples, people question whether social media makes a difference. My thought that it does. Regardless of how small your contribution appears, making a contribution is making a difference. When the Supreme Court of the United States was hearing arguments for Proposition 8 the Human Rights Campaign released a modified version of their logo for people to use as their Facebook profile pictures and suddenly my Facebook feed was seemingly stuffed full of people who agree with marriage equality.
Now this may seem very trivial, but if my feed was awash in symbols of marriage equality, I’m willing to bet that many other people had the same experience as I did. Some of those people probably did not (or still do not) believe that marriage should be open to everyone. Now, they may not have changed their mind just by seeing a ton of red equal signs, but they certainly became aware of the prevalence of the support for marriage equality. And sometimes this little awareness can push someone to change. That little change can open up a larger door and challenge thinking more than we know especially when this online activism is tied to more meaningful and educational conversations or campaigns.
I’m clearly not saying that all we need to do to create change is tweet, change our Facebook profile picture, blog, pay $25 to a crowd funded cause, or sign a petition but these little things help. These little things help contribute to a larger push for change. We need to keep the momentum going and remember that we can always be doing more. We can always be looking for ways to engage our community in service and education. We can be looking for ways to make change to the institutionalized systems of oppression that run throughout our societies. Working for change from our keyboards is still working for change. But we can always find ways to do more.