Malcolm Gladwell’s piece in the New York Times calls into the questions the tools like Twitter for modern day activism. Moldova’s revolution happened with very few people even owning Twitter accounts. There was no twitter revolution in Iran.
To dig deeper into this claim, he references the 1960 sit-ins and nonviolent protests of young black people defying societal norms of where they could be served at the Greensboro lunch counter. The common thread with all of these protests and revolutions is that high-risk activism is a “strong-tie” phenomenon. Within these groups, it was found that the informal ties mattered. One study of the Red Brigades, the Italian terrorist group, found that 70% of the members already had a close friend involved.
So it boils back down to our interactions, our connections. Some tools manage what we already have in terms of connections. Social media tools also let us scale up the bridging and bonding ties, enlarging our reach and reducing barriers to participation.
So is Twitter helping to enable weak-tie activism? And is weak-tie activism as effective? After all, the bonds and redundancies in these networks would not be as strong. Perhaps then this is why you have such a range of people for protests such as the student protests- those at the highest level of political reform and those who just want to break some **it. It would stand to reason then that our new age of activism, although more widespread, may not be as cohesive and bonded, and easier to dissolve.