The Revolution Will Be Tweeted
COMMENTARY: Snapshot: My 86-year-old mother, a former schoolteacher and missionary, hunched in her darkened second bedroom in front of a glowing iMac, writing social protest e-mails at all hours of the day and night, forwarding links to Mother Jones and The Ragin’ Grannies blogs and conversation groups.
Snapshot: Me, waking in the morning, picking up the cell phone charging next to my bed and, with a mix of bleariness and anticipation, logging on to Twitter to see what’s happening with friends. After that, I check the CNN app. Facebook is not far behind. By that point, I’ve usually disturbed my boyfriend sleeping beside me. He rolls over and, after a kiss good morning, gets on his phone, checking in with the world. We lie like this for a few minutes, sharing a funny or disturbing bit of news with each other as we read it, and finally get up to face the day.
Snapshot: A CNN report about teen girls and text messaging shows that American mothers are more and more often having to reach their kids via smart phone. But not by calling — teen girls seem unlikely to check voice mail. If you want to reach your daughter these days, one mom lamented, you have to message them.
Snapshot: Tahrir Square in Cairo, the street filled with anti-government protesters in what became the first revolution to be born and promoted via social media, namely Facebook pages and Twitter updates. Recognizing the power of what was occurring, (then) President Hosni Mubarak suspended Internet service in Egypt for several days. Social media didn’t just make history, it … MADE … history.
Snapshot: Starbucks, any city USA. People wait in line to order or pick up coffee. A few sit in small groups chatting. But many are sitting silent, leaning forward, staring at the displays of their laptops and smart phones, interacting on social media sites. This is the new normal.
Snapshot: More than two million people click on the YouTube channel for Dan Savage’s It Gets Better, a social media project to help reach bullied LGBT teens at risk of suicide. “Spokespersons” from Hillary Clinton to popular actors to everyday people record videos on their home computers and upload them so teens can watch.
Snapshot: At an evening rehearsal for a local volunteer choir, members are asked to support the group’s Twitter and Facebook presence by joining and posting thoughts and comments. “Twitter? Please!” one of the middle-aged performers balks. Then he rejoins, “Yes, I’ve heard of Twitter. And frankly, I have no need to know what Sarah Palin is up to today!”
Friends, the landscape has changed. There has been a quantum shift in the way people communicate, and not everyone is on board.
people can rent space, free or on the cheap, in a surprisingly
democratic manner. The gay bar can exist next to the Justin Bieber fan
club, right down from the fundamentalist church storefront. Each is as
easily accessible and welcoming as the next. Call it instant legitimacy.
But if you’re not plugged in, you’re not plugged in. And this is a
particularly poor time to be a Luddite.
There is definitely an
age and generation gap when it comes to social media. Not surprisingly,
young people are more inclined to be online interacting than their older
family members and acquaintances. But look at my mom. Look at gray
haired politicians who’ve embraced Twitter and found a means of talking
directly with their constituents. There is nothing but fear and habit
standing in the way of other older people picking up a device and
tapping out a few sentences of how they feel or what they think.
an activist, the sense of liberation I get from speaking my truth is
something I wish all could and would experience. A street corner is one
place I can share my feelings (and have on occasion), but it’s
exponentially more effective online. Sitting thinking about it now, I
wish Marshall McLuhan were alive today to see how diverse and accessible
his global village has grown, and to offer words of encouragement for
late adopters to tune in and join the rest of us!