Social Media Reinvents Social Activism For Strong Relationships: My Critique Of Malcolm Gladwell’s New Yorker Article

Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker states that the new tools of social media have failed to reinvent social activism. He wrote a long piece explaining why he believes that relationships formed within social media are weak relationships, and used examples from the Greensboro sit-ins, and the crisis in Moldova and Iran to support his position.

He argued that without real commitment social activism cannot exist because there’s no real commitment to other individuals involved in a cause, and without that commitment in the face of the higher costs of getting involved people will drop out of a cause.

High Stakes Require Strong Relationships

Gladwell uses the sit-ins from Greensboro, NC as an example of social activism where high stakes were involved, people had to make strong commitments to the cause because the consequences of being involved were as high as physical danger and even death. And that those most involved in the sit-ins were supported by small networks of people who were connected through close relationships. Gladwell argues that because relationships formed online are loose relationships those relationships are not highly committed relationships, and any real requests for social action will fail because of the weak relationships formed within social media between people and organizations.

I agree with Gladwell, he was right, social media can be a medium where your ties to people are weak, but I also believe he misses an important factor with the use of social media. Most people have strong ties with a small group of friends, colleagues and family within their social networks. Those relationships are just as important today as they were in 1933 in the depths of the Great Depression, or in 1960 during the Greensboro sit-ins.


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Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker states that the new tools of social media have failed to reinvent social activism. He wrote a long piece explaining why he believes that relationships formed within social media are weak relationships, and used examples from the Greensboro sit-ins, and the crisis in Moldova and Iran to support his position.

He argued that without real commitment social activism cannot exist because there’s no real commitment to other individuals involved in a cause, and without that commitment in the face of the higher costs of getting involved people will drop out of a cause.

High Stakes Require Strong Relationships

Gladwell uses the sit-ins from Greensboro, NC as an example of social activism where high stakes were involved, people had to make strong commitments to the cause because the consequences of being involved were as high as physical danger and even death. And that those most involved in the sit-ins were supported by small networks of people who were connected through close relationships. Gladwell argues that because relationships formed online are loose relationships those relationships are not highly committed relationships, and any real requests for social action will fail because of the weak relationships formed within social media between people and organizations.

I agree with Gladwell, he was right, social media can be a medium where your ties to people are weak, but I also believe he misses an important factor with the use of social media. Most people have strong ties with a small group of friends, colleagues and family within their social networks. Those relationships are just as important today as they were in 1933 in the depths of the Great Depression, or in 1960 during the Greensboro sit-ins. Leer más “Social Media Reinvents Social Activism For Strong Relationships: My Critique Of Malcolm Gladwell’s New Yorker Article”