What do people, especially the weakest folks, need most? We think of food, shelter, money, and the like, but only one thing fundamentally changes life. One thing only, with which necessities and luxuries follow. It is power, plain and simple: the ability to get things done, to get people to do things willingly. Gather enough, and everything else follows. It’s why rich people get into politics: they know power is king, and they want more.
Do you have a cause or gripe? Who doesn’t? If you’re frustrated or angry, and you want to make a difference with your life, Social Media offers you great tools for the job. You may well be using some already: most people do, without ever realizing the power they hold in their digital hands. It doesn’t matter which ones you choose nearly as much as it matter whether you’re taking action with any of them. You can learn as you go.
Remember David and Goliath? The world’s mighty Goliaths have struggled with Social Media and often embarrassed themselves (ask Burger King!). Many small folk Davids have won impressive victories hardly possible a generation ago.
Clay Shirky’s book Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations describes how Social Media is not just for fun or selling or wasting time. It’s also increasingly changing history, increasing social reach, organization, and influence far cheaper, easier, faster, and more difficult to predict or resist or control than ever before. You have better tools than the most powerful governments did a generation ago. Some examples, all but the first from the book:
1) Somebody recently hacked Burger King’s Twitter account, causing this large corporation world-wide embarrassment. Not long ago, it would have been near impossible to so thoroughly derail a corporate PR project. Today, no big deal.
2) A New York victim of cell phone theft quickly found the phone & proved who had it. NYPD refused to help. Within two months the New York Times & 60 other papers, CNN & many other TV and radio outlets, and two hundred blogs were on the case. NYPD ate crow, arrested the thief and returned the phone. It was 2006.
3) Voice of the Faithful began in a church basement to discuss Father Geoghan, who had raped or fondled hundreds of young boys with the help of Church officials for 35 years, immune from all consequences. In less than six months these folks became 25,000 members in twenty countries. Bishop Bernard Law completely failed (he sure tried!) to suppress them. He resigned within a year. Father Geoghan went to prison. It was 2002.
5) CBS cancelled the TV show Jericho. Angry fans sent CBS peanuts, referring to General McAuliffe’s famous reply ( “Nuts!”) to German surrender demands in the Battle of the Bulge. After CBS received TWENTY TONS of peanuts and lots of bad PR, they renewed the show. Who had the most power here, do you think? Not CBS.
6) Countless flash mobs, Occupy and other protests, riots, and so on have become common world-wide, using Social Media tools as simple as Twitter updates of police movements, or messages to friends abroad. Britain, America, even Stalinist Belarus and Communist China have been unable to predict or stop them.
Such things remain quite unpredictable, and failures outnumber successes. There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, people but the price to play is quite reasonable, and you can try many different projects in little time. It sure beats Tweeting and Retweeting about how little we can do, or how wrong and hopeless it all is, how bad THEY are, or how SOMEONE SHOULD DO SOMETHING. Someone is ME and YOU and those you recruit, or its most likely NO ONE. Get it?
Never let anyone tell you that you have no options: it’s an excuse to do nothing for yourself, it’s a lie, and it your hurts your morale and creative energies. Oppressed groups, some plausible theory tells us, turn on their peers: sound familiar? What we lack, we average Americans, is the sufficient will, solidarity, and hope to fully reach our potential. Time to work on it, on America, for ourselves and our children and descendents.
Ponder this: YOUR idea, if you pursue it, could be that next big thing that comes out of no where to change the world. If you don’t even try, nothing good will come of it, only bad. Which will you choose? You have exactly two choices, no more: You move forward, or you move backward as the world leaves you in the dust. Doing nothing means moving backward, see? Which will you choose?
I’d surely appreciate any other examples from folks: I love these great stories of people taking charge and standing up for themselves.