Social networking, for good and for ill

Over at my blog, it turned out that I made some posts illustrating the ways that social networking can mobilize people, for good and for ill.

  • For good? For starters, there’s the way that social networking services like Facebook are opening up new spaces and pathways for discourse in Bhutan. More personally, I blogged about the success of the “It Gets Better” video project started by Dan Savage, aimed at mobilizing adults and people who’ve managed to come out and to tell younger people still coping with problems–high schoolers particularly–that there is hope, that things will get better for them. It’s a grand thing; my video is below.
  • On the downside, there’s the human flesh search engine, a term used in China but applicable worldwide, describing the way in which Internet users outraged by something horrible–the video from England showing a woman putting a cat in a garbage bin, say–can mobilize to identify the perpetrator and go on to ruin their lives.
  • Famously, author Malcolm Gladwell very recently wrote that social networking–epitomized by Facebook and Twitter–creates weak networks, with members who make minimal commitments, as opposed to coherent organized hierarchies which actually mobilize people. Gladwell might have a point, but he certainly made here a generalization; aside from the ability of social networking to facilitate the emergence and functioning of hierarchies, online networks can be quite powerful, using mass mobilization to achieve a task with speed. It’s morally neutral, though, any task you might want.

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