Nowadays, anyone who writes an entry critical – or skeptical – of social media would be looked down upon with such contempt, especially if it is done within the context of social media. Well, here goes.
In other words, Facebook activism succeeds not by motivating people to make a real sacrifice but by motivating them to do the things that people do when they are not motivated enough to make a real sacrifice. We are a long way from the lunch counters of Greensboro.
Can the revolution be tweeted? Of course it can; participants of the revolution can tag each other in Twitter conversations, check in to the revolution venue in Foursquare, or have a pulse of the public through Facebook fan pages about the revolution. Surely the status quo can fall under the mighty brunt of blogger power. Yes, it will be tweeted, but will the revolutionaries be tweeting?
Today, Carlos Celdran got arrested for making a stand inside a Church, where he is somewhat proclaimed a martyr for the cause of the passage of reproductive health laws in the Philippines. In a matter of a few hours, the netizens supported Celdran’s cause, no matter how disagreeable the performance was in the eyes of some. Now, he stands there alongside every cause supported by social media at one point or another: candidates, Iran, a college basketball team, some Big Brother contestant, the Ampatuan Massacre, Bambee dela Paz, etc.
There will be hashtags, Twibbons, and all sorts of campaigns to free Carlos and to support the RH cause: the same on-again, off-again, off-kilter relationships we always had with causes we stand for on digital space.
The sociologist Paul Lazarsfeld refers to it as the “narcotizing dysfunction” of media. With so many products of mediated communication permeating the very structures of our society, especially with the ever-continuous advent of the Internet, it seems that being informed is the primary and final obligation of the netizen. Rather than be soldiers to a revolution, we tend to be more of town-criers: with no need to attack, with no need to man the fortress, with no need to trudge the trenches.
George Washington needed just one Paul Revere, reserving the thousands of willing folks for his army. Revere’s job wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t as easy for the soldiers either. Today, a George Washington will have a thousand Paul Reveres retweeting “The British are Coming,” but could the same be said for those who carry the gun? I don’t think so.
The “revolution” will be tweeted, whether it’s a policy like RH, a prospective candidate running for public office, a campaign for a reality show contestant to be immune from elimination, or a cause to improve the service of Restaurant X because it treated Customer Y so badly. Yet will the revolutionaries be tweeting? No, they wouldn’t: they would be out there opposing the Church on the ground, running the volunteer groups for the candidate, rooting for the reality show contestant with tarpaulin and streamers, or writing letters to the restaurant manager.
Every reason we have to not do so is valid. Maybe we don’t have time, or we don’t have enough resources. Maybe we’re immersed in our day jobs. Maybe it’s not as important to us. Ultimately it’s a choice of being swept by the tide of revolution, or being that tide.
Those who are the tide would commit, they would invest, and they would definitely sacrifice. Joining Facebook groups isn’t a commitment, because you can always choose to build up your catalog, or unlike the page. Twibbons are not investments, because they can always be replaced by another one. Hashtags are sacrifices of one character, leaving you with at least 139 characters to spread your message to the world. The revolutionaries will not be tweeting. Figuratively, they won’t have the time and money to tweet, since they committed it to revolution. We’ll be tweeting their blood, sweat, and tears, not ours. We’ve come a long way, indeed, but we aren’t there yet.
The point is that one of these days, social media-led activism will have to demand the same sacrifices and commitments necessary for revolution to take place. To elicit the curiosity is one thing, and to solicit the action is another. Until we start demanding more from ourselves than blog posts and Twibbons and hashtags, until we’re willing to bite out more than a few bytes for a GIF and a megabyte of posting, then the revolutionaries will not be tweeting. Until the communities we build within our own walled gardens are strong enough for us to collectively “do a Celdran” and raise more than just passive-aggressive middle fingers to the Catholic Church, for example, we tweet the revolution that isn’t ours.
Until those demands – sacrifices and commitments – are met, there is no revolution to be tweeted.