Why social media is more powerful than ever before
Remember when social media networks were relegated to basic websites like Friendster and MySpace? Back in those days (some seven or so years ago), we were astounded at the ability to post pictures on other peoples’ profiles, and we marveled at sending each other messages like we were participating in some rare, clandestine communication. The height of accomplishment was to have the most friends associated with your profile, and people worried more about issues within their social circle than those happening in the world around them. Now we’re still concerned with how many friends (or followers) we have, but at least the social media phenomenon has taken shape on a global scale, with millions of people mobilizing at once for certain causes in an astounding show of power.
An article in the New York Daily News remarked upon the impact of social media on current events in a recent article about the scandal surrounding the breast cancer prevention foundation Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the infamous Planned Parenthood. In a nutshell, Susan G. Komen announced that she would be reducing funding for Planned Parenthood, and millions of women (and men) who questioned the decision took to their social media networks to vent their frustration. After a tense few days, Susan Komen reversed her decision to reduce funding to Planned Parenthood, seemingly as a direct result of pressure applied to her from online.
Other examples of the sheer power of social media are legion. The many revolutions that took root in the Middle East last year can at least in part be attributed to coordination of social media platforms, and the more recent uproar surrounding the impending SOPA legislation brought millions of Americans to voice their opinions via Twitter and Facebook. Large corporations attempt to tap into the masses using social media, but usually their efforts backfire at the hands of a culture resistant to taking cues from companies.
For example, McDonald’s recently tried to start a trend on Twitter under the hashtag #McDStories, designed to encourage customers to share fond memories at the fast food chain. Of course this Twitter campaign came back to bite McDonald’s almost immediately, as users began tweeting about the low quality of the chain’s food and service under the same hashtag. The company wanted a positive spin in social media, but the millions using it had other plans—such is the power they have.
Is it possible that social media has provided Americans and those in other countries to assert their individual rights more prominently than ever before? Social media almost seems like a last bastion for independent thinkers to express their opinions without any fear of repercussions. Social media platforms, whether people believe it or not, have lasting power to determine policy in this country and around the world. The sooner people realize this, the sooner they’ll focus on issues more pressing than those posted on their Facebook walls.