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Entries in Gladwell (2)
Malcolm Gladwell is in the New Yorker this week, arguing that social media lacks the energy and power of real relationships and therefore isn't as powerful a force for change as some people like to imagine.
Beginning with a story from the American civil rights movement, Gladwell argues that only protesting alongside true friends allows people to find the courage they need - the 'weak' links of social media contact would never be enough to equal that strength.
I like Gladwell's books and I do have time for a lot of his argument here. Lots of what happens on Facebook and Twitter is just fluff and chatter - and I'm unconvinced by the many Facebook and Twitter 'campaigns' that float past every month. It's easy to sign up and feel you're doing good, without doing much at all. Though the same can be said for buying The Big Issue or wearing a CND badge.
Where Gladwell loses me is when it becomes obvious he has no time for social media and hasn't used or experienced it much. He quotes the old trope about "The evangelists of social media seem to believe that a Facebook friend is the same as a real friend." Well, rubbish. That's such basic 'old codger' drivel that I immediately take a suspicious step back from his argument. People know the difference.
Social media - it's just communication. The communication's no less or more 'deep' than writing letters, putting up posters, getting the church minister to pass on a message - it's the same thing, only potentially more widespread. I talk to my family on Facebook - and my friends, and colleagues and people I have known for years. If anything the ties are tighter, because we communicate more.
So - worth a read, but with a cynical eye. I'll now tweet it so more people get to see it...
(There's a good piece about it in The Guardian too)