Social media networks affect our interpretation of and actions within the wider world

20Apr11

Malcolm Gladwell has been saying some interesting things on the role of social media networks in the recent social uprisings in the Middle East. Broadly his thinking seems to downplay the role of social media in driving social change.

Gladwell vs. Twitter: Here
Gladwel vs. Facebook: Here

While I admire the compelling way Malcolm Gladwell crafts and simplifies ideas (e.g. Outliers), I’m not conviced by his argument this time around. I believe technology and media shape our opinion and interpretation of the world; and that communication with our social peer group plays an active part in this.

Social media networks are an accelerant, hastening the spread of underlying trends and beliefs. But they also empower and allow consumers to raise an issue efficiently; communicating it and magnifying its impact in a manner previously only possible through traditional media (which are more expensive to create, are difficult for individuals to influence and sometimes state controlled). Social Media campaigns unite and engage people with like-minded peers more rapidly than traditional media – there is no delay for an official bulletin, newspaper or scheduled announcement – communication is live and maybe more locally relevant. Allowing it to be acted upon instantly and in a specific location.

Social media networks are capable of spreading sentiment and social action like a bushfire.

Once ideas take hold in social networks, they are very difficult for brands, corporations or governments to control, even if the state controls traditional broadcast media.

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One Response to “Social media networks affect our interpretation of and actions within the wider world”

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