Twitter Redeems, or, How the Western World Could Learn to Use Social Networking in a Meaningful Way

In a previous post, entitled, Jingoism Adjusts Size, I questioned what I felt was a jingoistic trend, exemplified by social networking tools, like Twitter and Facebook, that seemingly made everything about the “I,” and personal narrative. The recent events in Iran have me completely rethinking my stance on sites like Twitter and Facebook. Primarily because both technological resources are being used to support, create, and foster a community of resistance, instead of being used to follow the new celebrity craze, shopping lists, or current obsessions. In short, its being used for the common good, to stand as witness. Alas, my personal bias, and perhaps elitist understandings are revealed.

Apparently Twitter, Facebook, and diary blogs are only okay if they are documenting a “worthy” social movement, such as say a movement for social justice. Well, so be it. I own that this may be an elitist reading. I even own that its suspect to have had such a quick change of heart in my feelings for Twitter. All I can say is that I believe in the power of people to be able to communicate directly, and as a child who has always been struck by the power of the Civil Rights Movement genius positioning of the image to tell the story of human rights in the U.S., I find such images and resources powerful.

In the Sunday Washington Post, an article entitled, “Reading Twitter in Tehran?” , the authors suggest that, “What’s most exciting is the aggregate effect of all this speech and what it reveals about the zeitgeist of the moment, but it still reflects a worldwide user population that skews wealthy, English-speaking and well-educated. The same is true of the blogosphere and social networks such as Facebook.,” pointing out that this resources are often elistist. And yet, and yet, it’s hard to deny the power of how cell phone cameras, 140 characters, and blogging are letting the world in on what’s happening in Iran, even as Iran ejects journalists. Moreover, I would argue, that journalists, ostensibly positioned as “every man” story tellers, are in fact, also positioned as elitist intermediaries between what the public sees and how it understandings and contextualizes what it sees.

The Postarticle, though it brings to bear important points about the very clear limitations of Twitter, and wisely brings a dose of reality to the excitement about such social networking sites, it is still, well….a little snarky and contemptuous of all this noveaux journalists, snapping shots and stealing the show. In the article, they caustically and ambivalently share just how important Twitter has become:

“And after the State Department asked Twitter to delay a scheduled maintenance last week so that this line of communication between Iran and the rest of the world could remain open, the company’s co-founder Biz Stone offered a somewhat self-congratulatory aw-shucks post on his blog: “It’s humbling to think that our two-year old company could be playing such a globally meaningful role that state officials find their way toward highlighting our significance.”

A twinge of snark aside, the authors do well to critically analyze and review the use of social networking and blogging – doing ultimately what journalists are trained to do: critically questions and contextualize information and its impact. They are also right to point out how social networking information can be harnessed and used by socially repressive regimes.

But until there’s a better way: how amazing. How brave. What a lesson to Americans. After the 2000 election, we fretted, we waited for the Supreme Court, and then we accepted the verdict even though it was so clearly unfair. We protested, but nothing on this scale.

What can I say: social justice, justice in action – people acting on the behalf of themselves, their rights…its beautiful.

Check out this link, it takes you to images of protests in Iran which is currently posted on youtube. If the link doesn’t show, view it here.


Iranian citizens protest, June 2009 - Blog unverified source


One Response to “Twitter Redeems, or, How the Western World Could Learn to Use Social Networking in a Meaningful Way”

  1. […] thebibliophile Weblog reading literature, art, culture, and fashion « Twitter Redeems, or, How the Western World Could Learn to Use Social Networking in a Meaningful&nbsp… […]

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