In a recent article in The New Yorker, best selling author Malcolm Gladwell, shocked the social media establishment. Gladwell’s article “Small Change,” challenged the impact of Facebook and Twitter on their ability to influence profound social change. Many think that social media is the most important transformation since the Industrial Revolution. However, Gladwell contends that just because the world is becoming increasingly connected, these connections are “weak” at best, and unlikely to lead to a mass uprising on the scale of the Civil Rights Movement.
Gladwell reminds us that social media does not necessarily translate to social change. Yes, we are connected with large numbers of faceless people we do not know from all around the world. Yes, we are brought together by a common idea, product or interest, but this is hardly enough of a tie to have 100,000 of us meet in the street carrying banners and signs in a mass protest.
If Gladwell’s thesis is correct, those companies who are able to combine the anonymous, faceless, cyberspace, connections with live face-to-face encounters, will have the greatest influence on meaningful long lasting, revolutionary change. Once we are familiar with the humanity of the person behind their online profile, we are more likely to stand side by side with that person to promote change.
Mashable, (RED) and Meetup’s partnership represent the best balance to date of the virtual and real aspects of social media. On September 23rd they declared Social Good Day. For this event, the social media community was invited to organize and attend a Meetup to celebrate, share, educate and engage in a discussion on how social media can be used to tackle some of the world’s social challenges and issues. While this event did not have the same impact as a march on Washington, it’s a start. As social media Meetups mature, eventually a significant movement will be born online.
Do YOU think social media can bring about meaningful change? Share in the comments section below!