I have a friend, I have probably mentioned this friend before, who has some major technology issues. The issue he has is that he cannot live without it. He never has any spare money, but he always need to have the new Droid Phone,(hes a tech head, not a I-slave). He doesn't like meeting people in person, but he belongs to a massive community of people actively interacting and battling with each other all across Fort Collins. And most odd of all to me is that he takes medication that sometimes makes him forget entire chunks of his week, so he feels the need to document everything he does online, multiple times as his Facebook, twitter, and Google+ are all linked and updating one updates all. There is reason to believe that if he had the chance he would live out a fantasy and have himself digitally put into a computer and never leave.
Now let me clarify. He is not a total reclusive like I questioned in an earlier post. He has a job he commutes to, family he visits, friends he hangs out with, (if I twist his arm), but he has substituted much of his interactions with people for interactions with machines. He banks online and has set up automatic payments for all his bills, even though this setup has screwed him more times the he and I can count together. He orders food for delivery more often then going out or going shopping. he uses his phone to navigate, pay bills, and even frequently speak for him. In short he is not an unusual person, he is the typical internet junkie that is more and more common in the modern age. when his phone died he died a little during the two day gap it took to get it replaced. once his laptop was stolen, he was not normal for a month and it still haunts him to this day. So why is he and his life style so important. well the point I am moving toward is that a problem we face today is that his life is not considered important in many situations.
There is much debate in the media today as to the relevance of social media in the larger discussion of media and information exchange. Social media is seen at the same time as a new exciting frontier and a painful nuisance to real media. The argument becomes really heated when the subject of activism comes up. There are many people out there who feel a need to get their opinions out into the world because they feel really strong abut an issue, just not strong enough to actually get out into the world and spread their opinion physically. This is where the boundaries of old activism and this new form of activism clash. Coming from a family of activists myself I know that most traditional activists believe in order to make change you need to be, well, active. If you are not out in public doing something that gets you noticed then nobody cares about your message. However in any successful campaign there are always the unseen people making things happen. Organizers and recruiters are an ever important part of spreading a message. I believe the reason many see the new form of online activism as now really activism at all is because it is solely an act of spreading the message, and while that is important at some point something more needs to be done. But arguments can be made both ways, that in the street activist are too in your face and the issue is lost, and online people are too far away from the issue to ever really push it.
I do believe there are way too many people out there that believe that pushing the like button for a cause is really helping it. But activism is always an active thing and needs to adapt to the changing times. Social media is a powerful tool, just ask DARPA:
Social media and internet junkies represent a large and growing population with the keys to a very fast vehicle of change. Anyone who refuses their assistance looses a strong partner, if not a very noticeable on.