Thursday, June 18, 2009

Twittering to Another Iranian Revolution (or not)

I sincerely dislike Twitter because I believe that breaking everything down int 140 character or less sound-bites is a terrible idea for an already maladjusted and attention span-less society. Still, I have found the arguments that Twitter is spurring on the Iranian Revolution of 2009 to be intriguing. And also wrong.

I will not disagree that Twitter, Facebook, and related social ::shudder:: media play a large role in organizing the protests. This is obvious since they are used widely, they are our generations connection pools. Twitter especially has been receiving undo, in my opinion, praise as the linking site helping to give rise to the Iranian social movements. To this, I reply, does anyone remember how Iran got like this? It was a revolution. How about China's Tienanmen Square? How about the social movements in Europe in the 1960s? All these arose suddenly and changed the world or died trying. They also did it without Twitter. In the first breath, commentators say that Twitter is bring out a revolution not seen since 1979. We did not have Twitter then, I wonder how they were able to organize and overthrow a government remarkably similar to the one they have today (not ideologically, but practically)?

Revolutions have always happened and masses of people have somehow managed to get everyone together in one place to yell and throw stones for decades if not for longer. The internet is the current method of maintaining connections, and has some very important purposes, like being able to show videos from cell phones. The truth is, though, these protests would have happened with or without the internet and Twitter. People would have just done things differently, just like they used to. We in the west tend to over estimate the role of internet communications in many countries, and Iran is no different. If anything, the internet is distorting the facts by providing so many and from unverifiable sources. Honestly, if BBC reporters were not secretly saying that this is a big deal while inside the country, then I would not even necessarily believe that this movement was more than a Tehran thing.

In sum, internet does not equal protests. Twitter did not bring about the Iranian protests.


  1. i'd even go so far to say that twitter actually weakens the capacity for revolution.

    like you mentioned it deadens sustained interest and underscores the apathy experienced by the bulk of the population (i.e. facebook surfing instead living out their lives outside of cyberspace). complexity in thought is considered taboo in the status update status quo and something posted 15 seconds ago gets forgotten in the stream of something not more interesting but more recent.

    if you posted a date and time for a rally, 67 of your friends will 'like' it and then not go because they were posting photos of their toe nail clippings or freshly washed laundry onto facebook.


    can't complain, because often i'm complicit :/

  2. You are so right. There are many people who believe this that I have been finding lately. I try and talk about the advantages and disadvantages of social media as much as possible since this will let people know about its dangers.