Social media for social change

Being somewhat of a realist, it’s hard to argue with any of the points Malcolm Gladwell makes in The New Yorker about the relatively weak power of social networks to activate significant social change:

But how did the campaign get so many people to sign up? By not asking too much of them. That’s the only way you can get someone you don’t really know to do something on your behalf. You can get thousands of people to sign up for a donor registry, because doing so is pretty easy. You have to send in a cheek swab and—in the highly unlikely event that your bone marrow is a good match for someone in need—spend a few hours at the hospital. Donating bone marrow isn’t a trivial matter. But it doesn’t involve financial or personal risk; it doesn’t mean spending a summer being chased by armed men in pickup trucks. It doesn’t require that you confront socially entrenched norms and practices. In fact, it’s the kind of commitment that will bring only social acknowledgment and praise.

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There is power, if done correctly, to activate small bits of change or to push someone toward a behavior they were already inclined toward: If you’ve following a brand’s Twitter account it means you already have some level of affinity for them and so are likely to buy something from them. But really changing the world? That’s going to be done by people in the real world with guns, determination or any combination of those two.
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