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Twitter and Revolution

What role do social networks play amidst social activism? Are the extensive connections made through Twitter and Facebook strong enough to insight change? Does it even matter if they are?

In this article, Jonah Lehrer challenges Malcolm Gladwell’s viewpoint that “online networks are all about weak ties – a weak tie is a friend of a friend, or a casual acquaintance – whereas real activism (he uses the example of the civil rights movement, led by Martin Luther King) depends on strong ties, or those people you know and trust”. Lehrer revisits Granovetter’s paper “The Strength of Weak Ties”, and reiterates that distant relationships have played a key role time and time again to the success of social movements. Not only are weak tie bridges essential for the effective flow of new information, but they also help unify large masses of people around a common cause. He deduces that, “organizations dominated by strong ties tend to produce fragmentation and cliquishness, which quickly leads to the breakdown of trust”. Lehrer argues that Martin Luther King’s effectiveness during the Civil Rights Movement was dependent on the network of weak ties that he created within the community. Trust and loyalty were developed with enough distance to keep crowds organized and disciplined.

We discussed the importance of strong and weak ties very early on in this course. Learning how these connections work in relation with the Strong Triadic Closure Property are fundamental to building our understanding of social networks and their influence in our society. I think that Lehrer makes a valid point in defending the importance of weak ties, regardless of what medium they form in.

Source: https://www.wired.com/2010/09/weak-ties-twitter-and-revolutions/

Source:https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/10/04/small-change-malcolm-gladwell 

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