Connectivity is power. Knowledge is power. And now, social media is power.
The immediacy and ubiquitous nature of social media has no relevance to the general public until its power is unleashed – for the public to see – during mass demonstrations in foreign countries.
A poignant example of social media’s power dates back to November 2013 where a few thousands students gathered in Maidan Nezaleshnosti (Independence Square) to protest president Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to “ditch a far-reaching accord with the European Union in favour of stronger ties with Russia” (Fishwick, 2014).
Political upheaval is not new to the Ukraine – as the Orange Revolution was some nine years prior – but what made this significantly different to the previous revolution was that “new media, social networks and other IT tools for organising and sustaining protests” (Bohdanova, 2013) were implemented within the first few days. Tetyana Lokot (Mitew, 2014) reported that 3,200 tweets were published per hour on November 25th and up to 4,800 per hour on November 30th which was the first day of violent crackdowns by police.
Twitter was a major platform used during the protests and a hashtag was created on November 21st – the first night of protests – #euromaidan. This hashtag started, spread and sustained a revolution.
Moreover, Facebook played a central role in informing wider audiences but soon became useful in “meeting the growing need for medical and legal assistance” after protests turned violent on the morning of November 30. Facebook pages such as Euromaidan SOS asked individuals to post information about victims of police beatings so they could send appropriate help to those in need.
But there are always some who do not believe in the power of social media during protests. Evgeny Morozov (2011) states that digital tools are simply that, tools. And that social changes requires “many painstaking, longer-term efforts to engage with political institutions and reform movements”. Yes, it does take a long time to overthrow a government or bring about any kind of political change. But does it not take one voice to begin that change? And what happens when that voice is amplified and disseminated to a thousand people? Ten thousand people? Well, you get change faster than ever before. And this is what the protest in Ukraine exemplified – that one platform, one idea and one hope was shared by so many people and it all started with one voice and one person.
And this is the power that social media has – its innate ability to provide ubiquitous connectivity and knowledge. And knowledge is power.
Bohdanova, T, 2013, ‘How Internet Tools Turned Ukraine’s #Euromaidan Protests Into a Movement’, Global Voices, viewed 27 September, http://globalvoicesonline.org/2013/12/09/how-internet-tools-turned-euromaidan-protests-into-a-movement/
Fishwick, C, 2014, ‘We were so naive and optimistic’: Ukraine Euromaidan protesters tell us what’s changed for them’, The Guardian, viewed 27 September, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/04/ukraine-crisis-protesters-kiev-euromaidan-independence-square
Mitew, T, 2014, ‘The social network revolutions: #mena, #arabspring, #maidan’, http://prezi.com/ikufthacaunr/mena-arabspring-the-social-network-revolutions/
Morozov, E, 2011, ‘ Facebook and Twitter are just places revolutionaries go’ The Guardian, viewed 27 September, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/mar/07/facebook-twitter-revolutionaries-cyber-utopians