Twitter has an immense ecosystem with incredible diversity. There are accounts for everything and for all types. Many people stick with a single theme and run with it. Comedians never break character; activists fight the good fight; others simply lament over or sing praises about their daily lives. It has helped launch fledgling businesses. It’s been wielded as a powerful weapon against social and ethical injustices.
To me, Twitter is a great outlet for satire. I’m not a spokesperson for a company or in a position of authority or leadership so I don’t censor myself. Rarely do I tweet about anything serious because those messages are almost universally ignored. Sometimes I’m just making up for my unusually timid real-life personality. But most of the time I use it to be provocative and to learn about how my audience responds. My own social experiment.
I have been very interested in the effects of social media on the efficacy of activism, and I’m concerned that our improved ability to talk about problems is replacing our reason to do something about it.
One cannot deny that the Arab Spring was aided in part by social networks like Twitter, but it was not tweets of solidarity alone that overthrew corrupt governments. People fought back in the streets and paid dearly, sometimes with their lives, to achieve the change they so deserved.
The outcry against SOPA and PIPA helped dismantle legislation that would have stripped the Internet of the freedom that gave it life. Without a strong media backlash, the support of affected major corporations, and tens of thousands of letters to public officials, these bills may not have been overturned.
The KONY 2012 campaign is just the latest. What will come of it?
On the issue of women’s rights, when companies use alienating stereotypes in their messages, a cacophony of angry voices is rightfully heard. It’s even more maddening when it happens twice in the same week by two different companies, Sqoot and Geeklist, and in the same industry, no less. It should be outright frightening because these incidents are just the tip of the iceberg.
There has been an alarming increase in violations against women, from marketing done in poor taste to blatant rights violations. The response to these moral issues has increased as well, this week being a perfect example of such. Yet the problem still exists, and if anything, it’s getting worse. Why?
Women are under attack. They are being treated as second-class citizens by the very politicians they elected to represent them. Men and women are different, yes, but only in physiological terms; we are all human and we deserve the same rights that every human can enjoy. For all the advancement of women’s rights over the last 50 years, we are quickly slipping backwards.
If men in male-dominated industries like technology want to encourage women to be involved, we need so much more than 140 characters. We must do something about it.
Gender inequality doesn’t start in the workplace. It begins at birth, where societal pressure influences us into our respective gender roles. To combat this, we must create opportunities for women from the very start. Where are the programming classes focused on young girls? Where is the Summer of Code for Women? Armchair Activism is simply not enough.