There are two worlds: open and closed. In the closed world, “you can know only what you’re permitted to know.”
China, Turkey, and North Korea are closed worlds. The news is state-run, recast as edited real life.
Meanwhile, open information systems suffer from hack journalism. Excess information confounds true and fake news. Consequently, no one knows what’s going on. They fall prey to an incompetent demagogue that condemns them to “exciting times.“
Both open and closed systems shroud the data, either by default or with intention. Everyone knows everything and nothing; none of it adds up to actuality.
TV is too slow. Facebook’s algorithm takes at least a dozen hours to build up steam. It’s too hard to tell what’s live, archival, owned, and merely sourced on Instagram. Instagram also restricts rebloggability so the best-real time content never goes viral. It’s quite clear that the default tool for breaking and keeping up with news as evidenced Fergusonis Twitter.
Twitter thrives off breaking news. It’s the quickest microphone for people to spread awareness. Protestors in Turkey and Egypt turned to Twitter first to get the word about government corruption. So did the people in Ferguson in complaining about the local police, which appeared to represent the American military more than everyday police officers.
So as much as tech pundits slam Twitter for it’s torpid user growth, it’s still the best way to peek inside the lives of those on the ground. Sometimes the best social media is local.
Social media is good at rallying initial support but poor at sustaining and energizing it. While some of this can be blamed on Internet users’ short-attention spans in the age of digital distraction, most of the capitulation occurs because protective governments turn the social media platforms completely off as Turkey did yesterday in shutting down Twitter.
Social media is the epitome of democracy, a public microphone that enables anyone to say what they want, when they want. Naturally, social media gets noisy, as people abuse it to share useless status updates or scurrilous rumors just to see who’s listening. False information can spread quickly but the truth always seems to ends up on top.
The best that governments can do to protect against social media is let it be rather than trying to control it and generating further opposition. There will always be ways around the great firewalls.
People ultimately decide if a social media rally is worth pursuing. As professor Zeynep Tufekci points out, protests require great leadership and management since the most forceful efforts really have to be mobilized offline.
Twitter is a barometer for testing true democracies. It turns out that some quasi-democracies like Turkey and Russia still prefer censorship.
Internet penetration in Turkey is nearly 50 percent, and it’s even higher within the dominant urban segments of the Turkish society. In fact, Turkey ranks among the top five countries with the highest social media usage.
According to a recent survey of eMarketer, “the country with the top Twitter penetration rate is Turkey, with 31 percent”; it is followed by Japan and Netherlands. There are about 11 million Twitter users in the country in total.
Turkey joins China and Iran to restrict Internet access. Shame.
Gone are the days when we could follow a charismatic leader on an ends-justify-the-means journey toward a clear goal. A person like Martin Luther King Jr. wouldn’t be able to rally people to realize his great dream today. He would be as desperate for hourly retweets as the rest of us, gathering “likes” from followers on Facebook as a substitute for marching with them. Imagine John F. Kennedy attempting to rally national support for a decade-long race to the moon? The extreme present is not an environment conducive to building lasting movements.
We’ll said but social media is one hell of a mobilizer.