Social Media and Protesting

Respond to this quote from last week’s reading: “It seems most likely that the virtual public sphere brought about by [computer–mediated communication] will serve a cathartic role, allowing the public to feel involved rather than to advance actual participation.”

I was interested last week to hear Professor Rheingold’s comments about The Smart Mob and the overall sentiment from the class that social media has created better opportunities for collective action and political protesting.

In the same week, my COMM 1A class was discussing political protesting, and Professor Iyengar gave a lecture about social media and protests, and he seemed to think that the jury was still out on whether or not social media really made protesting any easier/better.

The Civil Rights movement took place before the Internet and social media, yet Americans used protesting and riots very effectively to rally support for their cause. I wonder how the Civil Rights movement would have looked differently if they’d had social media to rally support for their cause.

I think the Internet and the online public sphere definitely makes it easy for information to spread, but I think it might make it harder for information to stand out. One has to gain a huge following in order to draw major attention to a cause on the Internet, and even if a particular cause gets a lot of attention online, the online news cycle moves so quickly that it’s hard for one event/cause to stay in the spotlight for long.