Considering the issue of the role that social media play in activism and revolution nowadays, it is necessary to pay close attention to the latest events that shaped social movements across the communities. In this regard, demonstrations in Philippines in 2001, the United States presidential elections in 2008, elections in Moldavia in 2009, the events of the so-called “Arab Spring” that began in the Middle East in the early 2011, Spanish M-15 and American “Occupy Wall Street” movements should be regarded as the key events for they have revealed the role of social media’s influence in activism and revolution. Thus, it possible to assume that the way social media influence society, social life, and social movements is unique. On the other hand, the unique role of social media in the life of society is predetermined by the nature of the group of Internet services under consideration and their functions. Clearly, the role of social media’s influence in activism and revolution becomes more significant, for more and more people become involved in social and political life. Thus, the issue of social media’s influence requires further discussion in order to understand their mechanisms within society.
Tim O’Reilly is commonly referred to as a person who introduced the term ‘Web 2.0’, denoting a global networks sector, essential for the functioning of social media (Auvinen 4). Due to the processes of rapid technological development, the Internet and social media particularly have become an integral part of social and political life. Anonymity, diversity, omnipresence, speed, multitude of roles, transition from objectivity to subjectivity, ability to combine different kinds of information, and decline of traditional methods of regulation position themselves as the stages of development of social media (Auvinen 6). Thus, each stage can be regarded also as social media’s characteristic feature.
Social media, according to Ari-Matti Auvinen, are typically defined as the “new information network and information technology using a form of communication utilizing interactive and user-produced content, and interpersonal relationships are created and maintained” (Auvinen 7). Five major distinctive features of social media are the following: social networking and social interaction option, the ability of participation, the presence of different providers, such as, for example, search engines and blog spaces, openness, for example, accessibility and user-friendly interface, and collaboration option. With regards to this and the essence of services a certain network provides, social media have been classified into six main categories: social networks, such as Facebook, Google+, MySpace, and LinkedIn, mediaproducts communities, such as YouTube, Flickr, and Slideshare, blog services, such as Twitter, Blogger, and Wordpress, information creation communities, such as Wikipedia, link sharing services, such as Digg and Diigo, and virtual communities, such as Habbo Hotel and Second Life (Auvinen 8).
Ari-Matti Auvinen provides the following data: as of 2011, approximately 89% of Finns aged from 16 to 74 years use the Internet regularly (Auvinen 7). Thus, the importance of social media in social life can be underestimated.
Considering the issue of social media’s importance in social, economic, and political life, Dylan Manley emphasizes the special part social networks play in marketing. Reflecting upon the aspect of social media interaction, the researcher pays close attention to the role of the so-called influencers, who usually act as private customers or incorporated parties and constitute the key elements within the framework of consumer society (Manley).
Considering the issue of social movements, Jose Antonio Vargas is reflecting upon the events of Egyptian Revolution and the part social networks, Facebook, in particular, played in it. The author tells the story of the Wael Gonim, who attempted to confront the cruelty of Egyptian police, started a Facebook page, got a great number of followers, and became truly “one of the leading voices of the Arab Spring” (Vargas).
To sum up, it is important to admit the following. Nowadays the Internet users are provided with a wide range of facilities for online communication. The Internet until now remains one of the freest means for communication and information exchange. Thus, social media play an important role in contemporary social movements for they are capable to involve great amount of human resources and contribute to the processes of dissemination of information.