Social Networking + Activism

I think social networks (through the form of websites and apps) have altered the relationship between citizens and established government. As part of the Arab Spring in 2011 (around the same time The Social Network came out), Egyptian activists organized and led rallies to protest their current president. Their anger was aimed at the economic situation and corruption within the government but also involved freedom of speech, feminist issues and police brutality. Activists and journalists turned to Twitter, Facebook and Flickr to show firsthand accounts of what was happening in Tahir Square and raised an enormous amount of global outrage and solidarity, which eventually led to the resignation of the president. The social network campaign was especially heightened due to censorship that was happening in Egypt and led many to realize the power individual voices had in the face of government oppression.

A similar situation happened in Ferguson a few months ago, where a few photos and blogs about policy brutality towards blacks in the United States sparked an uproar of activism and civilian revolt. This created an unprecedented amount of civilian interest and critical analysis of governmental power, which allowed many Americans to step forward and challenge governmental authority, even in smaller matters. I think the ability of social networks – to spread current news and events among a global audience – is truly changing the way we view government as a whole. Because citizens are realizing the power of social spaces to raise awareness of smaller causes and uniting with others that share this drive, they are taking the power away from government and spreading it among themselves. In this way, the masses become more worthy of fear than the government because they have learned how to use social networks – a tool necessary to spark change – as a weapon against injustice.

Web 2.0 and it’s Effect On Society

From my perspective, Web 2.0 demonstrates the new type of society that has emerged, in which collaboration and active communication are greatly valued. Instead of accessing content online, individuals are now creating, sharing and editing content themselves which paves way for more creativity and innovation in terms of ideas and expression. I think Web 2.0 has also created a more interactive virtual space for individuals to communicate; with the rise of social networking platforms, global news or personal statements/ideologies can be shared through a photo, status or text post in a fast, efficient way. The ability to connect users from all over the world and allow them to blog, tweet, or comment through any platform changes the nature of information; instead of accepting it, individuals have learned to challenge, criticize and expand upon ideas or topics which adds to our wealth of knowledge.

As a student, sites such as RateMyProfessor or StudyRoom allow me to interact with students across campus who have taken the same class or studying the same subject, enabling me to make better academic decisions. I am also involved with various social media sites such as Tumblr, Twitter and Instagram which is where I first receive updates about recent news events. When a major crisis occurs, both in America and elsewhere, the users I follow share articles and live news feeds so we can discuss and comment upon events while they are occurring. This instant connection eliminates the reliance on newspapers or broadcast channels and instead, gives value to individual voices with an online presence who are either at the scene or connected to the event firsthand. This can possibly also eliminate the bias news channels or journalists might have, because the sources are not filtered.

In my opinion, one of the most significant effects from Web 2.0 is the rise of ‘YouTube celebrities’, a phenomenon that has never existed before. These individuals share online content on YouTube through the form of video blogs, tutorials, musical talent or short films and in turn, have gained immense popularity. The ability for individuals to create and upload weekly videos to a fan base that not only watches, but creates their own responses and reactions shows how alive and attentive the online world has become. Individuals, such as author and vlogger John Green have also adapted to the changing web and created Art Assignments, a video series where art is discussed and the audience is engaged in challenges to create their own take on the piece. Just this week, Brandon Stanton, the photographer behind the Humans of New York Instagram page worked with an underfunded public school in Brooklyn to raise money for school field trips; within a week, one millions dollars were raised by Instagram followers and hundreds were aware of the cause. In this way, I think the collaboration that is taking place online has allowed us to relate to people who are virtually strangers and provide a community-like feel, regardless of geographic location. From a societal perspective, the Web 2.0 has, in many ways expanded our wealth of information; however, due to sites such as Wikipedia, that allow users to add, edit or delete, we have learned to become more critical and skeptical of our sources and speakers.