Social Networks, Social Movements.

So what if The Civil Rights Movement had access to social networks?  Would “I

have a dream” trend on twitter the day Dr. King gave his speech? How many lives

could have been saved because of tweets? How many followers would Dr.King have?

Sadly, the world will never know, but movements like Arab Spring can give us

an idea of how things might have went.

For those who don’t know, Arab Spring is a movement that is taking place in

the Arab world in the Middle East and parts of North Africa. The movement

consists of a massive wave of protests, demonstrations, and wars.  The

conflicts are a result of the need for massive change in countries involved in

the movement.  Corruption in dictatorship, poverty levels, human rights

violations, and unemployment rates are all things that people in the Arab

Spring are fighting for.

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What makes Arab Spring unique is the influence social media has had on the

movement.  Social Networking sites like twitter allow users to connect with

other users from anywhere in the world, and that’s the beauty of social

networks.  For the Arab Spring movement, this was a great way to let the rest

of the world know about the events happening during the movement. Because of

this, many of twitter’s most influential users became aware of the movement.

One of those influential users is Andy Carvin, National Public Radio’s senior

product manager for online communities.  Carvin first picked up on the

movement when he noticed a hashtag reading “Sidi Bouzid” in several of his

friends tweets from Tunisian. The hash tag stood for a small town in Tunisian

where a man had set himself on fire to protest against the government. Ten

days later Carvin noticed another tweet from one of his Tunisian followers

that read, “ Ok Arab world, you seen how we do it in Tunisia, tag your it.”

This tweet made Carvin curious to see if a response from other Arab countries

would occur. His curiosity was soon met by reality when he saw the hash tag

“Jan 25”, which marked the day that Egyptians started to protest. Every piece

of information that Carvin could get about the movement from the people he

followed that were involved, he would retweet to his followers. Carvin has a

follower population of over 70,000 people.

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Andy Carvin

Learning about the Arab Spring movement changed my perspective on the power of

social networks. Also, this story made me question what other movements around the

world will start as a result of social networks. Social Networks make it easy for

users to pick up on trends, twitter uses hash tags to identify trends. Movements

like Arab Spring challenges people to study trends on social networks to predict

similar movements ahead of time.

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