The Revolutionaries Will Not Be Tweeting

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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 his latest commentary for The New Yorker, Malcolm Gladwell takes a critical view of social media:

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.

7 comments on “The Revolutionaries Will Not Be Tweeting”

  1. Reply

    We’ve learned a lot in the past year with the Great Book Blockade of 2009, with Iran Election, with Ondoy, with Haiti, with the election campaign of 2010— and let me borrow the term from MLQ3 because I think it best describes it: “air war.” It is something that most people yet haven’t realized. Social media is great for getting attention, but you need to do the day-to-day grind on the ground.

    The great book blockade was only successful when after getting attention, people on the ground started calling their UNESCO contacts and spreading the word from there. Iran Election was a lost because— as much as the world got the attention, there was no action from the UN. Maybe the governments knew what we didn’t. Disasters were the same— Ondoy’s twitter got everyone excited, we had online tools brought in when critical mass grew and finally on the ground people started getting relief services and started packing. The election campaign of 2010 wasn’t won because we tweeted or we facebooked— though it helped maybe around a percent. The campaigns won because they were out there stomping.

    It also goes back to what Seth Godwin wrote recently, he said,

    “After Squidoo gave away $80,000, we heard from many of the charities that sent a lot of their supporters over to vote. Do you know what they wanted to to know? “When was the next time we can rally a lot of people to get more votes and donations?” Do you know what not one of them asked? “How can we get our supporters to actually lay some groundwork so we can make this sort of money every week?”

    It made me sad that so many non-profits have precisely the same mantra. Rush to the easy money, then look for more and rush after that.”

    At the end of the day, people still got to do the work.

    • RNnotRN
    • October 1, 2010
    Reply

    Couldn’t put it in any other way..Just like the cry for not volunteering of RNs in hospitals. With so many graduates and board passers and exploitation, none could be seen going against the system we are in. A losing battle. can’t stand it.

  2. Reply

    “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.”

    i think we should chalk this one up sa overflowing information. pero para sakin tama paring magpakalat ng impormasyong “tama”, yung impormasyong kinakalat with the goal to arouse, organize, and mobilize (to borrow from the kilusan)

    sabi nga nila, sa dami ng impormasyon that we have to sort through all our lives, mas mabagal na daw magage ang utak. ie: I’m 23 but am actually just 19 in some mental respects (or something like that).

    but i agree. Mas Kailangan ng Aksyon Kaysa Info Dissemination

    • nanayjey
    • October 4, 2010
    Reply

    My simple response here is:

    Maybe the word must travel far and wide for one brave soul who has brought life to the word, gain more brave souls. One of a leader’s daunting tasks is to make himself infectious to the rest.

  3. Pingback: the revolution will not be won by tweets alone | Cocoy Chronicles

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