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Online social media instigates rampant activism, protests

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By Molly Daniel

I cannot tell you the number of times I have been chastised for being on Facebook. I’ve heard everything from “Get off of Facebook, and do something productive!” to “You spend way too much time on Facebook!” to “Your generation is constantly plugged in to Facebook!” Recently, however, the elder generations’ reprimands have quieted.

As of 2011, images from conflicts all over the world have been virally spread to every country through Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Starting with the riots in Egypt, these social media sites have stirred national uprisings against the tyranny of undemocratic and oppressive government.

Since the Egyptian riots were ‘liked’ like wildfire, these cyber movements have gained momentum. In the United States, two particular groups have already gained public support: the Occupy movement and the KONY 2012 movement.
I, for one, used to be opposed to the Occupy idea. The protestors didn’t have a unified message; therefore, the U.S. government couldn’t really do anything to respond to the movement. I came to realize, however, that the power in the movement wasn’t from the so-called message that the protestors were shouting at the capitol building but rather the hidden message the rioters were shouting to the government.

What began on Wall Street has spread through the World Wide Web to more than 95 cities across 82 countries, from Australia to Hong Kong and more than 600 U.S. communities. These cities are filled with tents of protesters who have internet access.
These occupiers constantly update Twitter accounts or the Facebook page “Occupy Together.” This clever use of social media has opened our government’s eyes to the power the young generation can wield.

The KONY 2012 movement has also captured national, even international, attention.
Released on March 5, the dramatic half-hour long YouTube video gained 10,000 hits in 24 hours.

I won’t share my opinion on the matter itself, whether the Invisible Children organization is admirable or not, but the video did a good job of spreading its message. It shed a light on the civil war that has been taking place in Uganda for more than 20 years. Because of a simple video, people are talking about a major issue in our world.

Sadly, these social media movements have all but replaced the common newspaper and TV newscast. While it is sad to see the old black-and-white icons fade into the background, it could be a turn for the better.

Sending journalists overseas to capture these movements has become a greater risk than it used to be. Because these riots often became violent, journalists are losing their lives. Just last month, two journalists, an American writer and a French photographer, were killed while reporting on a deadly campaign in Syria.

By using the new social media tools, any person can contribute to a cause by tweeting a simple sentence, clicking and posting a quick picture or liking a group. These free, easy-access websites connect the world and allow people to share their  views and ideas without purchasing plane tickets.

What used to be a time-sucker for young high school and college students has become a source of news for anyone with Internet access. Now every civilian with access to a phone or computer can be a reporter.

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Online social media instigates rampant activism, protests