Posts Tagged ‘social media’

Social Media leads 21st Century Global Revolutions

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

Hosni Mubarak should have given me a call on January 25. His mistake.

But if he had, I would have told him something Joss Whedon already made perfectly clear in Serenity: “you can’t stop the signal.”

Actually if Mubarak had called Beijing, Tehran or Rangoon he would have heard much the same message. Sure governments can still limit communications capabilities, but the measures are temporary stop gaps at best. Time and time again over the last two years, popular uprisings have found ways to sidestep official controls and use the Internet to get their messages out to the world.

The message hasn’t always achieved the desired results – think crackdown Iran, think crackdown Burma – but as we have seen in Egypt and across the Arab world over the last month, technology (and social media, in particular) is the revolution weapon of choice for the 21st century. There is real power there.

Truth be told all it takes to galvanize international support and drive a movement is a few enterprising individuals. In the case of Egypt the tweets and Facebook updates of a small group of Egyptians sparked a massive worldwide explosion of support with the #Jan25 and #Egypt hashtags that overwhelmed the social media airwaves virtually non-stop until Hosni Mubarak announced his departure on Feb. 11.

Bloggers picked up the call. Journalists covering the protests tweeted instant updates. Major media outlets continue to produce in-depth packages on the influence of social media and the Internet. And when the Egyptian government attempted to shut down those inside the country, Internet giant Google stepped in to lend a hand. Google teamed up with Twitter to run a voice-to-tweet service that allowed Egyptians to call into international numbers and leave voicemail messages that software then translated into tweets with the hashtag #egypt.

And while it is most certainly people – not technology – that drives the campaigns, social media has emerged as potent weapon.

“Egypt made a radical maneuver, ultimately counterproductive, trying to cut access …but when you are willing to dismantle your country’s entire communication network in an attempt to quiet people you are really scared,” says John Perry Barlow, political activist and fellow emeritus of Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

Barlow, like many observers, believes technology is causing a paradigm shift in traditional power structures.

“We’re witnessing revolutions that are self-organizing, without central leadership, and that is all a direct result of technology.”

Social media is now being used by protesters in Bahrain, Libya, Iran, Jordan and elsewhere to reach out across social and economic boundaries to build broad coalitions of diverse people united around a common cause.

In countries with mammoth ruling systems in place, like Libya or Syria, shutting down the Internet – at least partially or temporarily – can forestall large public movements. And while Chinese authorities have been able to fight off massive political unrest by pushing rapid economic development for millions of Chinese, activism and unrest are growing there too.

As we’re seeing in Libya not all ruling systems will be as mature about stepping down in the face of the flood as the Mubarak regime was. Leaders like Muammar Gaddafi will fight – unfairly and with little regard for the lives being destroyed – to cling to the old systems.

But for every individual that falls, dozens more around the world will pick up the call and blast the information across the Internet keeping the eyes of the world on any abuses perpetrated against people raising their voices for change ….and that is a power greater than any gun, goon or jail cell.

Voices of the Year represent an amazing community

Monday, July 19th, 2010

The unthinkable has happened!

I am a 2010 BlogHer Voice of the Year finalist!!!

I can’t even type that without letting out an ear-splitting “squeeeeee!” and sending our cats – yet again – scurrying for the safety of the nearest closet. Actually, our cats have taken up semi-permanent residence (alternately) on the ceiling, in the closet and under the bed from the incessant screaming since I found out that somehow I made the finalist list.

If this keeps up, I predict a visit to the vet’s office to get some anxiety pills for our beloved felines.

(And I’ll be asking the vet to send the bill to BlogHer.)

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From Team Haris with Love

Monday, April 26th, 2010

In the six months since our son Haris passed I have shed a lot of tears. Most of them have been the reflection of a gut-wrenching sadness I would wish on no one.

But over the last week, as friends, family and complete strangers rallied to support Team Haris in the March for Babies, I’ve been shedding a different kind of tears.

It began with Pauline (a.k.a. @aspiringmama), author of the poignant blog Aspiring Mama, who first urged us to start the team and then became its’ greatest champion.

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Social Media: More than Just Fun

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Several times over the last couple months I’ve commented here about the power of social media to bring people together around campaigns – raising awareness for Rare Disease Day, help for Haiti after the Jan. 12 earthquake, saving a favorite television show with #Heroes100. It’s a fun, easy, almost magical way to take action on the causes that matter most to you. In a few short seconds you can reach out to thousands of individuals – something that even ten years ago was almost unthinkable.

But what happens when that cause is your very survival? What happens when social media is something more than just fun — a means for isolated individuals to reach out to the world beyond their sickbed, wheelchair or hospital room?

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Twitter Hosts a Different Kind of Tea Party

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

When I think of a cup of tea, I think: calm, tranquil, serene. The mental picture is two hands on a steaming cup, eyes closed while I breathe in vapors that tantalize the senses with hints of chamomile, mint or citrus smells (depending on my mood).  Now thanks to a story from the Associated Press this week on Chinese activists going online to blast “drinking tea” warnings by meddlesome authorities, I’ll never see that cup of tea quite the same way.

According to the Associated Press story:

Police have long tried to shush and isolate potential activists, usually starting with a low-key warning, perhaps over a meal or a cup of tea. Now, the country’s troublemakers are openly blogging and tweeting their stories about “drinking tea” with the cops, allowing the targeted citizens to bond and diluting the intimidation they feel.

The movement is an embarrassment for officials, who are suspicious of anything that looks like an organized challenge to their authority. And it can’t help that “drinking tea” stories seem to be spreading among ordinary Chinese, including ones who signed a recent online call for political reform.

The country’s top political event of the year, the National People’s Congress, has given the stories another bump. More than 200 people say they’ve been invited by police to “drink tea” since just Friday, when the congress began, said independent political blogger Ran Yunfei.

 That Chinese activists found ways to go around official censorship of the Internet and get their stories out to others helps increased a sense of community for those under scrutiny and reinforces the power potential of the Internet.

 As we saw in Iran following the disputed June 2009 elections and for Haiti after January’s massive earthquake social media like Twitter can simultaneously allow users to spread information about events and draw in a truly international “coalition” of people who feel the same or empathize with the challenges. Those coalition members can and have raised the profile of the issue, raised money and provided invaluable moral support to those struggling through difficult situations.

 It’s a strange kind of magic that unfolds via spells crafted of 140 characters or less. And I, for one, can’t wait to see what practitioners come up with next.

Social Media: Heroes on the Campaign Trail

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

One of the most wonderful things about social media tools like Twitter and Facebook is the ability to locate and connect with people who care about the same issues as you do – and try to do something about them.

The Twitterverse is loaded with great individuals and groups hoping to raise awareness and campaign on everything from human trafficking to health care, from sports teams draft choices to saving favorite television shows.

(Yes, #heroes fans, I’m getting there!!!)

Here’s just a sampling of my evergreen favorites:

  1. Women’s issues/rights: @safeworld4women, @thewip, @GlobalFundWomen and @Womens_eNews are just a few of the tweeters out there raising awareness on women’s issues
  2. Rare Disease: @GlobalGenes and @rarediseaseday are among those raising awareness about #raredisease and what families face in battling rare, debilitating conditions
  3. Autism Spectrum: @autismtoday and @AutismMomExpert are among hundreds campaigning for #autism awareness and acceptance
  4. HumanTrafficking: @27millionslaves and @TrafficInPeople are among those campaigning to end #humantrafficking
  5. Human Rights: @witnessorg @EnoughProject, @AmnestyUK and @jonhutsun  

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