How not to talk about the impact of social media

I’m an agnostic on the role of social media.  I think that while such technology doesn’t overthrow governments by itself, it does change basic interaction between humans, which is worth studying.  I respect arguments for or against the causal impact of such tools, as long as they are not made based on anecdotal evidence.  Here is an example of a phenomenon I see a lot in this debate, I call it the faux-realist tactic.  It involves trying to be the edgy, cynical one, without actually developing an argument, or badly misinterpreting what other people are saying.  From Gideon Rachman at the Financial Times.

The commentary about the role of social media in Egypt has become so breathless that it is easy to forget that the French managed to storm the Bastille without the help of Twitter – and the Bolsheviks took the Winter Palace without pausing to post photos of each other on Facebook.

Got it?  Revolutions have happened before social media, therefore we can assume social media played no role in this uprising.  Also, I think we can safely say that tanks, the atomic bomb, aircraft carriers, and airplanes played no role in winning World War II.  After all, people had been winning wars for thousands of years without such tools!

Posted on February 17, 2011, in Democracy, Middle East and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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