We all have heard at some point this famous quote that says, “There is nothing permanent except change. Change is the only constant,” but did you know that it was said more than 2,517 years ago? Will Heraclitus of Ephesus agree that “click” seems to be the new “change”?
It doesn’t really matter what we understand of social change and how it occurs. Scott London argues in his article Understanding Change: How it Happens and How to Make it Happen that it’s difficult to measure change because it occurs on many levels (political, cultural, individual…) and different theorists have stated different ideas on what constitutes change throughout history. Almost all disciplines have talked about change, from philosophy and sociology to even natural sciences and organizational theories.
Focusing this discussion on social change, I understand social change as a way in which a particular group of people (society) with a shared understanding or meaning of an aspect of their world (worldviewing) decide to transform it in their lives to achieve a better situation (create impacts) both in a short-term and a long-term future. Looking throughout our history we can determine that it has changed due to different alterations in society depending on the situations of each era. From the discovery of fire, through the uprisings in the colonies or the human rights mobilizations until today. They were all a series of reactions to specific alterations that impacted the way people thought about their world and ways to improve it.
Undestanding social change as a way in which a particular group of people (society) with a shared understanding or meaning of an aspect of their world (worldviewing) decide to transform it in their lives to achieve a better situation (create impacts) both in a short-term and a long-term future.
People have achieved better life conditions so we can say that at some point they’ve achieved social change. Women and people of color succeeded in their right to vote, different colonies reached their independence from the colonizers, modern scientists attained discovery of new and better cures, different theorists and researchers made innovative understandings of the world. All, among many others, seemed to have something in common: a united group fighting despite individual differences. As Patricia Hill Collins and Sirma Bilge explain in their book Intersectionality, these differences, their intersection of race, class, gender, etc., allowed them better strategies to fight.
Today, we continue fighting for better conditions in our societies; we still claim social change, but the tools we use to do it have changed. Since the emergence of the Internet at the end of the 80’s with the appearance of social media platforms, a new way of understanding, living, and supporting social change has taken place –so much so that a new way of naming this phenomenon is “clicktivism.” Oriana Lauria and Nate Prosser, authors of the web Clicktivist: Digital Campaigning, One Click at a Time, define clicktivism as the use of digital media not only for the support or endorsement of a cause but for facilitating social change and activism too.
Since the emergence of the Internet at the end of the 80’s with the appearance of social media platforms, a new way of understanding, living, and supporting social change has taken place.
The immediate interaction with people, groups, and organizations from all around the world has led us to express, view, and share different opinions and perspectives. In the words of the Intersectionality authors, “it has changed the terrain of intellectual production and political action for individuals, nation-states, businesses, and social movements.” They go on to say it has not only allowed the generation and sharing of opinions, but it also has helped mobilize and create activism. Social media has arisen discussions around topics that otherwise would have been kept silent. It has made visible what was invisible.
The virtual space that the Internet provides has allowed a sense of mutual safety and freedom of speech. With the possibility of speaking out anonymously, we have been able to hear testimonies from victims of a variety of conflicts both on a small scale, like bullying or domestic violence, and on a more global scale such as environmental conflicts or wars. These statements are not always anonymous, but in many cases, they seem to have a powerful effect to other people experiencing the same circumstances; they have motivated others to speak. As a result of this ability to connect with one another, a chain of voices can be created and open a way to countless debates inside and outside the internet. Sometimes, these discussions go far beyond the debate itself and they have achieved real political and social actions (e.g. Arab Spring revolutions, the Dakota Access Pipeline conflict).
Social media has arisen discussions around topics that otherwise would have been kept silent. It has made visible what was invisible. The virtual space that the Internet provides has allowed a sense of mutual safety and freedom of speech.
This does not only allow people to speak. Who hasn’t felt surprised at some point when we have read a story about something that we thought only happened to us? This feeling of connectedness is another powerful key aspect in motivating people to express, engage and find community.
However, while there is no doubt that the Internet is changing the way we come to understand social change, it is not always so effective. Social media alone will not resolve all the problems, and questions around that will be discussed in some of the following posts of this blog.
We need to see it as a new powerful tool in adding chairs to the dialogue table, feeling the connection with others all around the world, and supporting and creating alternative responses to conflict.
In short, we need to see it as a new opportunity for more effective, real and lasting social change.
Collins, P. H., & Bilge, S. (2016). Intersectionality. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press
Gaventa, J. (November 6, 2006). Finding the spaces for change: a power analysis. Institute of Development Studies. IDS bulletin, 37(6). Retrieved from https://www.powercube.net/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/finding_spaces_for_change.pdf
Lauria, O., & Prosser, N. (2011). About. Clicktivist. Retrieved from http://www.clicktivist.org/about/
London, S. (1996). Understanding change: how it happens and how to make it happen. Scott London. Retrieved from http://www.scottlondon.com/reports/change.html
Sharma, R. (January 12, 2015). Social media as a formidable force for change. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ritusharma/power-of-social-media-dem_b_6103222.html