Monday, August 19, 2013

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:

: I send E-mails to The Chinese Government and help by promoting FREE TIBET on the internet

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.

being seen as activist or not is not important. We fight against Chinas propaganda in order to keep Tibetans struggle alive

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.

Beware that Tweeter is slyly promoting Chinese Propaganda against Tibetan

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." 

Wael Ghonim, author of "Revolution 2.0," in his NPR interview of February of 2012, just after the first dramatic demonstrations at Tahrir square were considered to be the result of social media efficacy, said that we still need boots on the ground and leaders to effect change--social media just isn't going to get it done by itself:

"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.  



At 6:05 PM, August 19, 2013, Blogger blogdai said...

Ha! Still arguing with the tweeters mentioned. Now they're deeply offended by my use of the word "condom."

My God, has social media created a class of conceptually hindered drones with capacity issues?

I weep for the future.

(But all of this is still fun)


At 7:07 PM, August 19, 2013, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well conceived work bd. I've always felt that once a serious issue finds its way into facebook or twitter it becomes diluted by the court of public opinion (and craziness)

You should read about how Morozov is taking heat from all quarters of the internet.

They all want to deify the internet.

At 1:51 PM, August 20, 2013, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The American approach to helping anybody is to dump cash on the probem and see what happens.

It comeback to bite them in Tibet.

At 6:44 PM, August 22, 2013, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You'd make a good intelligence analyst if you weren't such a prick.

At 8:11 AM, September 02, 2013, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has Morozov seen this article? It would tickle him pink.

At 7:00 PM, September 07, 2013, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds to me like you are solving your own self-esteem issues by justifying (and strangely validating) trolling, BD (no disrespect, I do love you). Yes, because of social media every kid who can type can now whine about, and pick a cause to champion (and perhaps even be cool in the process), but to suggest that this is somehow detrimental to the cause itself is a bit of stretch. And yes a billion people watched Kony and talked about it, and then forgot about it. But at least they are aware now. To suggest that Kony is still out there, and would have been worse off had the social media explosion not happened is a ridiculous statement. But then, that seems to be your logic on the Tibet issue.

At 10:48 PM, September 07, 2013, Blogger blogdai said...

Ah, but therein lays the problem: access, community and simple "awareness" of a problem are now seen as an end unto themselves.

We all know how to assemble and form groups but we're too weak to actually work the problem.

No, you mis-read. It's always better to let the world know about people like Joseph Kony, and that is the value of social media. But we are not going forward from that.

If social media forms groups that do work on the ground, that would be another thing; but we do not. We now feel that we can topple the world's worst despots simply by talking about them.


At 11:39 AM, September 25, 2013, Blogger Mukesh said...

This is a great post. Probably could offend people but they are probably people who have or will go on their Facebooks or twitter accounts or whatever there is these days that will give them "a voice".

Think I might follow your blog.

I dislike social media too:-

At 6:57 PM, September 25, 2013, Blogger blogdai said...

Mukesh: I read your blog and found your social media post to be excellent.

You and I may be on the tip of the iceberg of those individuals who are starting to push back against social media's influence. (I for one do not want to spend the rest of my life looking downward and talking with my thumbs)

That said, social media does have it's place. I'm not fully opposed to it as such; I'm just fearful of our dependence on it. To me it should be no more than the world's largest scheduling book, not an end unto itself.

Keep writing your blog, it keeps blogdai going to see that there are those out there like yourself who actually take the time to think.


At 6:24 AM, September 30, 2013, Blogger Metalgod said...

Hey man, I love this post and your page, but I just have to say one thing: page breaks. Bring your readers in and score more hits by using page breaks and save room on your page so we can see an inventory of posts rather than just a fat long scroll bar. I love what you're doing, and I wish you the best of luck, but remember those scroll bars!

At 12:48 PM, September 30, 2013, Blogger blogdai said...

Hey man, totally cool with the comments, but like, this is a long-form blog. Intellectual curiosity brings readers in, and like, hey, the scroll bar idea; wow, nothin but love there, but like blogdai is searchable, quotable and reference-able without the short-attention span shit. You feel me?

Love you, really, keep scorin' those hits.

peace and comprehension


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