Online social movement
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Online communities build off social movements, enabling the connection of persons worldwide to develop a base and gain awareness to the cause. Online social movements gained momentum in the late 20th century and early 21st century as new generations sought social change. With access to the internet and the fast growing World Wide Web, online social movements brought awareness to issues both political and social. Online social movements have been praised and criticized; the former for its ability to raise awareness to important causes, and the latter for its ability to perpetuate problems like slacktivism. Although online activism has received criticism, it has had real impacts on social movements.
The impact of online movements
The impact of online movements has been substantial since the introduction of the internet. With the ever-growing medium of social media, internet activism has reached the forefront of the internet. Through the use of social networking sites as Facebook and content-sharing sites as YouTube, the opportunity for wide-scale, online social participation has increased.
Nowadays the importance of giving voice to priorities such as public health, political unrest, disaster relief, and climate change have introduced internet as a source for social change.
Several social media movements have raised money for causes, such as the ALS Ice Bucket challenge raising $100million in 30 days. Even if they do not directly involve monetary funding, many online social movements raise awareness for causes such as institutionalized racism against African Americans with the Black Lives Matter movement and the inappropriate use of force by police authorities against black females, such as with the Say Her Name social movement. In the political sphere, active online groups increase political participation by providing a framework for discussion, leading petitions, and collecting donations in order to further a political agenda.
Some experts believe there are potential weaknesses and long-term repercussions that can be identified with online movements. Some examples are clicktivism and slacktivism, where the use of social media to promote a cause include activities such as:
- Organising protests
- Facilitating boycotts
- Online parody and satire
An example of a social movement that has received harsh criticism due to the effects that it had is the Black Lives Matter movement with incidents of looting and arson following the grand jury's decision to not indict the police officer that fatally shot Michael Brown in August 2014. There was public outcry after over 100 people burglarized stores and marketplaces in Ferguson, Missouri following the release of the court's decision. The online movement was criticized heavily by the conservative news source TheBlaze, saying that the online movement exacerbated feelings of injustice that ultimately led to looting and riots.
Examples of online movements
Social movements advance their work through the media. It is easier, less costly and time consuming to link collective behaviour as real time communication can occur vastly and simultaneously via social media. Some examples of online movements include:
- Egyptian revolution of 2011
- Iranian protest
- England Riots
- Invisible Children
- 2014 Venezuelan protests
- The Zeitgeist Movement
- Say Her Name
- Worldwide Refugee Crisis, Refugees Welcome
- ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
- Occupy Wall Street
- March for Science
- Me Too (hashtag)
- Popolo Viola (Purple People)
The future of online movements is hard to predict. However, there are some clear directions where they could certainly lead towards. Vanessa DiMauro believes the biggest trend concerning online communities in the near future is private online communities. While these large networks that we encounter and use on a day-to-day basis have provided us with a productive and collaborative experience they have also increased to unmanageable sizes. To become a learning environment these groups need to be much smaller and manageable. This is where the idea and trend of private online communities could potentially be the future of online communities.
Online Social Movements and Commercial Social Media Platforms
Since the late 2000s, an increased use of commercial social media platforms by social movements has been reported. According to Lopes, "Social Media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and the various online blogs have arguably given a voice to individuals that otherwise would not be heard." However, the adoption of these commercial platforms has concerned analysts as they highlighted asymmetrical relationships between the for-profit aims of social media and the copy-left values that drive many online movements. According to Fenton, "Claims for the extension and re-invention of activism need to be considered in the context of the material social and political world of inequality, injustice and corporate dominance."For example, "in his analysis of the Purple Movement (Popolo Viola) in Italy and its extensive use of Facebook, Coretti (2014) demonstrates that, while the myth of the network as open and inclusive persists, it acts as a disguise for the communication protocols of commercial social networking platforms that may well enable large-scale mobilization but ultimately, through their very functionality, encourage organizational centralization and fragmentation in social movements" (Fenton, 2016, p.184). The proprietary nature of the design of platforms such as Facebook pages fails to provide movements with the necessary instruments in terms of a shared democratic management of their resources. Moreover, the inability to manage Facebook pages and groups according to commonly agreed values promotes vertical power structures within movements, contributing to controversial management of Facebook pages and to internal divisions that significantly hinder the potential of protest.
- Shaun King; a Twitter-based civil rights activist.
- DeRay McKesson; Twitter- and Instagram-based civil rights activist, known for his involvement in the Black Lives Matter movement.
- Colin Kaepernick; American football quarterback known for his involvement in the Black Lives Matter movement and causing controversy for kneeling rather than standing for the national anthem, a symbolic act in protest of the unjust and oppressive treatment of people of color in the United States.
- Rachel Dolezal; civil rights activist that caused controversy after her Caucasian parents disclosed that she was a Caucasian woman passing as black. Received backlash on various social media platforms for claiming she was a victim of hate crimes as an African American woman.
- Van Jones; civil rights activist and creator of various initiatives such as #YesWeCode, which is meant to give aid to minorities in technology fields.
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