Sticks, Stones, and Tweets: Motivation and Virtual activism

What would persuade you to improve your golf game? A) someone beating you with a stick until you go to9 the driving range. or B) someone Facebook messaging you with threats to beat you with a stick.

I would go with the stick.

We respond to the physical much more readily than words on a page, tweets, or even your mom yelling threats to “clean up your laundry or no frittata for you tonight!”  Even in the case of mom do we respond to her demands because our stomachs (largely physical) tell us to.

When it comes to social and political activism, it would seem that the same motivation would apply.

On the other hand, the activism and organization made possible by Facebook during Arab Spring is a powerful counterexample.

Raising grievances online opens up the world of words. People tweet that they are angry because they cannot get a job after library school because of the ivory-tower nature of the Civil Service exam.  Online, the persuasive power of a stick beating you about the shoulders gives way to another, arguably more persuasive medium: language, ideas, community, networking.
We have physical reactions to words, ideas, language. We sweat in our sleep from nightmares. I personally will admit that Susan Boyle made the hair on my arms stand up when she sang. Try it. Dare you.

Ultimately, my open question is whether latent grievances can be called activism.

If there is never a street protest, never an outburst of action, can we call this activism? If all we have are platitudes, scholarly literature that calls out the establishment is this social activism?

For the moment my position on this is that yes, this is social mobilization on a level. Voicing your problems may be an act of protest that leads to concrete change as in the Arab Spring example.


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