When you look at the revolutions in countries like Libya or Egypt you’re able to see that the initial protestors and the initial anti loyalists were using lessons learned from online social media revolutions that existed before them.

That is fascinating because if the rate of adoption to social media is picking up around the world, if your 70 year-old grandmother is using Skype, for instance, then if nothing else politically the rate of adoption is also shortening and more and more people are finding themselves inspired by the ways in which you can now communicate that you couldn’t communicate in let’s say 2007.

So we’re seeing a lot of political upheaval and far more crowd engagement around conversation specifically because the tools are there.  The mediums are there and when inexpensive mediums are at the disposal of vast audiences that are angry and have something to say that is when people are aroused and have conversations about what they could do to over change a government. 

I do know that some argue that these revolutions in some ways feel superficial because people around the world are listening for about a week or two weeks and are deeply engaged with let’s say the green revolution in Iran, but then the revolution ends and what has happened? 

My father lives in Iran now and he is saying there is not much change, but the whole world was listening when the green revolution took place, but did the whole world jump in and want to react?  Some say that our attention spans are also shortening because we’re so used to things like political upheaval happening because of platforms like Facebook and Twitter.  Now it is almost a common story, so you listen.  You are engaged for a week and then you go on your merry way with your life.

The only argument to counteract this is how effective social media brands have been at raising funds during times of crisis, so for instance, in 2010, early 2010 there was an earthquake in Haiti.  We all remember and overnight because the American Red Cross and a few other organizations were so effective at leveraging YouTube and Twitter to raise funds mainly through short code messaging. We saw millions of dollars raised overnight specifically because the world was conversing online about this horrible, horrible natural disaster and now we’re so used to doing that that more funds are raised as each new horrible, horrific disaster happens like the tsunami in Japan because we know immediately okay we turn to Twitter. 

The more that we know how to leverage these social platforms to either donate our time or our energy or our money to either a natural disaster or even to a political revolution the more we can facilitate change.  

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.