The impact of the new media on society is evident from the unprecedented rise in social movements sparked by ordinary people with the means to instantly communicate and collaborate with each other. Lessons from these momentous events bear considerable relevance as marketers struggle to cope with the realities of a social media-empowered marketplace.
“Go 2 EDSA. Wear blk”
Our world has been in turmoil. The EDSA revolution in the Philippines in 2001, Moldova’s Twitter revolution in 2009, Arab Spring of 2011, Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movements in 2014 and 2019, the rise of right-wing populism in the U.S. and Europe, the “Black Lives Matter” movement, Thai 2020 protests demanding the reform of the monarchy, the “Zan, Zindagi, Azadi” (Women, Life, Freedom) civil unrest in Iran in 2022 — fuelled by the new media, movements of such overwhelming scale have become increasingly common across the globe.
Starting with protests in Tunisia in December 2010, and engulfing 19 countries by 2011–12, the Arab Spring transformed the political landscape across the Arab world. According to the Arab Social Media Report by the Dubai School of Government, nearly 9 in 10 Egyptians and Tunisians surveyed in March 2011 said that Facebook played a role in their involvement in protests and demonstrations. The same report claims that all but one of the protests called for on Facebook ended up coming to life on the streets.
The EDSA revolution of 2001 was one of the earliest instances of the use of the new media to mobilize support for social/political change. On 17 January, within two hours, over a million Filipinos, many responding to SMS messages, assembled at EDSA (Epifanio de los Santos Avenue) to protest against the vote by the Philippine Congress to set aside key evidence against President Joseph Estrada during his impeachment trial. Three days later on 20 January, Estrada was ousted.
Stirred by the new media, the political landscape of countries across the globe has transformed. We have witnessed the spectacular rise in support of populist leaders, and movements like Brexit and insurrections like the Capitol attack have disrupted societies across the globe.
Here too there is the relationship between these movements and social media. Even as it connects us all, the World Wide Web has divided societies into a multitude of social cloisters — i.e., relatively small groups of individuals who share similar opinions and ideologies. What is also becoming clear is that fake news and misinformation is having a profound influence on these cloisters, with repercussions on society as a whole.
Recognizing these developments, as also the shifts in the balance of power, politicians are changing their methods and their style of leadership. Taking greater pains to stay in touch, they are better at sensing the sentiments of the masses, and are learning how to engage and collaborate with citizens.
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