In our last class, we discussed whether or not we believed the Internet was a good or bad thing. I thought of this discussion when I read an article that lists seven things social media has been blamed for in the last few years. While several of these accusations are a bit ridiculous (i.e. increased cases of Syphilis), those surrounding social media’s impact on recent riots, revolutions and general unrest are important. These claims reminded me of our discussion surrounding the possibility that social media organizes and spreads the messages of radical religious groups. Is social media to blame for all of this?
I understand the accusations, and in terms of protests/revolution, social media is a great tool for spreading messages, scheduling events and in general, mobilizing users. I do believe that social media likely increases the size of riots or revolutions, and it increases their scope, letting people in other countries know about and even virtually participate in them. That being said, I think it is unfair to blame social media for the unrest. Behind every mobilizing Twitter account is a person doing the mobilizing.
The way I see it, an event like the overthrowing of Mubarak in Egypt would likely have occurred even if social media did not exist. Sure, social media organized the protests and allowed the revolution to occur quickly, but it did not cause the revolution. The unhappy citizens would have found another way to organize and protest their discontent. I think the same can be said for the spread of radical religious ideology. Social media can increase the size and scope of their messages, but at the end of the day, the people behind the computer are to blame for the messages themselves.