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Weak Tie – Low Risk Activism

The article attached was written by Malcolm Gladwell, which used a lot of examples about human rights movement, to argue that online social networks are not suited for “real” social activism. Gladwell thinks, online networks are all about weak ties – a weak tie is a friend of a friend, or a casual acquaintance – whereas real activism depends on strong ties, or those people you know and trust.

According to the class, we know that Mark Granovetter brought up a hypothesis from sociology, which is “strength of weak ties”. Our greatest source of new ideas and information are not come from our friends, but our acquaintances. The internet lets us exploit the power of these kinds of distant connections with marvelous efficiency. Weak ties seldom lead to high-risk activism.

As author said, our world is in the midst a revolution. The new tools of social media have reinvented social activism. People on Twitter may not know each other; however, every people was connected by weak tie which build up the new networks. Gladwell used Granovetter’s points to argue that the flat hierarchies of online networks are a detriment to effective activism. Granovetter claims that leaders of social movements often depend on weak ties to maintain loyalty. He thinks that the groups formed by strong ties usually create gragmentation and cliquishness, which quickly break down the trust. There is an example of Martin Luther King that the reason why King successfully to inspire such discipline among a relatively large group of followers was that he gathered large number of weak ties. Leaders always have least influence on the people who do not have direct connection. Therefore, we demonstrate that the weak tie is not a high-risk activism.


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