Social Media Might be Killing THIS Revolution
I'm not a grouch, I'm really not. I'm also not a Luddite. I love my twitter; love/hate the demands of this blog, and generally use the internet religiously--except for Facebook: I find it creepy.
Evgeny Morozov is a grouch; he also gives us a much needed perspective on the effects and future of our internet obsessions in his book: To Save Everything, Click Here. It's a bit of a screed,to be sure, but his approach forces us to take a hard look at how we view the world through the internet and social media.
He forwards the idea that today's societies are beginning to discount any human history that occurred prior to the inception of the internet and that, eventually, we'll come to believe that if something isn't on the internet, it doesn't exist. What we once believed as inalterable factual knowledge is now being re-imagined for "search optimization" or changed entirely through "Wiki" consensus. We are rapidly evolving towards a world where raw data is becoming more important than expertise, judgement and wisdom.
When it comes to that familiar 25 year old fossil: the "Free Tibet" movement, this changeover could be lethal. Right or wrong, decades of Tibetan activism and knowledge gained has now been effectively re-set to zero for upcoming generations looking for a cause to champion. Unfortunately, the lag time that is created while everyone tweets their feelings on the subject and we wait for the Tibetan "data base" to refill, is killing the Tibetan movement.
blogdai has no way of telling twitter twits that comments like: "...let's really show our solidarity with Tibet.." are 20 years too late and that every online petition that "...calls on China to address the injustices in Tibet.." is headed straight for oblivion. It's all been said and done, and guess what? It hasn't worked.
Tibet doesn't have the time for us to re-invent the wheel and let social media re-build an activist history on its behalf. Events are happening in Tibet that are not waiting for the internet community to catch up and form it's chat-room majorities. Sadly, not only does all of this social media clucking fail to pass for activism when it comes to Tibet; it may also be the source of the problem: social media has made the Tibetan movement into a simple coffee house discussion--a conversational choice. It's no longer about picking up a project and starting a physical movement, it's about the good feeling one now seems to get by seeing ones self type "Free Tibet" on Twitter and Facebook. It is a delusion that is evolving still. There is now, for example, a tangible belief that exists in the Twitter-sphere that if we send enough e-mails to China and really tweet our support, Tibet will eventually be free. The disconnect inherent in this belief is startling.
Ironically, blogdai believes that China loves all of this. What better way to neuter the ill effects of Tibetan activism than by placing the entire movement into the hands of those who will never do anything but Tweet, "like," "friend," discuss and comment on the issue.
blogdai must confess that these ideas of Morozov's have inspired a bit of a test. I've been deliberately provoking the Tibetan "activist" community as it seems to exist on the internet and have found myself in a few good arguments--ok, one-sided arguments. I argue, my opponents whine at me for being "negative." See below--and by the way, Morozov was right:
LIAHONA WARRIOR ARTS @RockyRTwitchell
Great, no one has told this person that Tibet is a "core" priority of the Chinese and any tweet, email or phone call to them that questions that position will be met by big international repressive displays that highlight just how much we can't tell China what to do. This means, the more we shoot off our mouths, the more Tibetans get hurt.
So, actual assistance takes a back seat to screaming at Chinese propaganda? Who do you think will win that little pissing contest? Will it be handfuls of disjointed and scattered twitter account holders or the biggest and baddest propaganda machine since the Third Reich? Prepare to be hacked by experts, by the way.
I'm slyly trying to get people to think. The horror! Tweeting about Tibet is seen as comfortable, fun, and providing of a sense of community to these people; unfortunately it doesn't help one Tibetan. No wonder they go after blogdai for telling them their internet emperor has no clothes.
It's almost clubbish--a boutique sense of activism. Unfortunately, again, Tibet doesn't have the time for everyone to feel good, form groups, and agree that they are suffering. Tibet needs hands-on ideas and strategies that deal with the day to day realities of their suffering as it exists on the ground. blogdai has hinted at a few of these strategies in previous posts. They're easy, "no brainers." Why then have we not been working on such strategies? Perhaps its because the actual business of saving Tibet has taken a back seat to our current practice of forming consensus on Tibet through social media--we'd rather talk about it than DO it.
People who feel they are accomplishing some great humanitarian deed simply by talking about it on the internet solve nothing but perhaps their own self-esteem issues. They may all form groups and disagree about some evil practice in the world, but they're not about to do a damn thing about it. Love it or hate it, Joel Stein's article in Time on the millennial generation hits the point squarely. As Stein says: "They are informed but inactive: they hate (warlord) Joseph Kony but aren't going to do anything about Joseph Kony."
"We used all the available tools in order to communicate with each other, collaborate and agree on a date, a time and a location for the start of the revolution," he says. "Yet, starting Jan. 28, the revolution was on the streets. It was not on Facebook, it was not on Twitter. Those were tools to relay information, to tell people the truth about what's happening on the ground."
In the case of the Tibetan movement, the wrong turn down the dead-end road to social media prioritization has sucked the life out of actual activist efforts.
"Free Tibet" is dead, and social media is keeping it that way.