Blog 9: is online politics the same as ‘real life’ politics?
To a certain extent, being involved in politics online leads to being involved in politics in ‘real life’.
In his article “Small Change (social networks)”, Gladwell contemplates that social networking sites, like Facebook, help maintain weaker ties (that is with those people who you have little known sense of who they are) and these sites are less likely to produce social change. He uses the example of the ‘Save Darfur’ Facebook group and proposes that just because you participate online (by ‘liking’ the group or posting a comment) doesn’t mean that it constitutes as a real sacrifice because you are just simply ‘following’ a movement. According to Gladwell political activism only occurs when their is a high risk or sacrifice. He states:
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.
Although, people may initially passively participate in this kind of politically action, the ‘Save Darfur’ group also communicates when rallies are being held in the ‘real world’ and encourages people to attend and participate away from the comfort of their own computers. New tools of social media has reorganized social activism in such a way that the once powerless can now collaborate and give voice to their concern. So in this way, online politics can be considered the same as politics in ‘real life’.
In Shirkey’s article, “The Political Power of Social Media”, he proposes that the internet is more than just freedom to access information. People are now interested in more and citizens are now able to produce their own forms of public media. Communication is getting more connected at more levels, therefore, there are more opportunities to make our voices heard.
For example, the protests in Egypt were being powered by social networks, like Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube, and are making information readily available to anyone who searches for it. In response, the government of Egypt has blocked Facebook access from their country. Obviously the effects of online politics are similar, if not the same, as effects of street riots, otherwise the government would not have taken the time and effort to forbid the use of Twitter in their country.
The Egyptian government is attempting to block citizens off from knowledge of other systems in order to protect their own insular government from scrutiny and criticism. This action alone proves that political actions online lead to radical political demonstrations in real life that potentially pose the same threats to the government.
In this new social media age, I think its safe to say that actions that happen online and through social networking, can be considered actions that can happen in real life. Social media has become an integral part of the way people live their daily lives.