Faux activism is a problem. Getting mad about something and finding relief in signing an online petition is one example of do-nothing, feel-good activism. Can we hope for more from Twitter and Facebook and similar sites?
Stated more generally, what is the role of Twitter and other social media in changing the world?
According to iconoclast Malcolm Gladwell, there is no primary role for social media in real activism. Contrary to popular opinion, Twitter and it's ilk are just a useful communications tool says the author of "Tipping Point," "Blink," "Outliers" and other penetrating thought pieces.
Others have rushed to disagree, making for a mini media-fest over the role of social media in things real.
I'm more with champions of social media than with Malcolm Gladwell on this one, but he does make good points in his article--which is well worth the reading time.
Effective activism does require "strong links" between people, the kind forged by sharing hardship in pursuit of a difficult goal. And social media shine in forming "weak links" such as being a member of an online "cause." But we're not stuck there.
Social media can play a key role in forging strong links, and there is one other thing Gladwell missed. We need to do a better job in learning how to make change using BIG groups of people united by weak links. We activists need to evolve into the future, not resist. Otherwise we'll be like Shakers in a jet-pack world.