We start a petition. Or we send a list of all the retweets to Parliament. Or we just sit, inactive, nodding sagely at our wisdom and that of those that agree with us.
This accomplishes nothing.
I’ll use an example. The new welfare cuts have been announced by the Conservative government. They’re fairly unpopular with a large range of people, and the most common thing people have said is along the lines of “Maybe they should cut THEIR expenses and get rid of THEIR subsidised bars before they try and get at OUR money!”. A lovely sentiment, I agree, but it ain’t happening. There is no way that a politician who enjoys these privileges will deny himself them, and there is no way that any politician with, say... decency could raise the idea of removing these services and expect it to be voted through.
Essentially, no matter how many times we retweet this, it will not affect our government.
But we can’t pretend that Twitter is a proving ground for genuine action either. When protests turn ugly (and they usually do, thanks to some rather inventive tactics from both police and some of the more idiotic protesters), they are often blamed on the “lack of monitoring on social network communications”. The result of this will be the censorship of Twitter.
Therefore, the only way to truly take action is to resort to the tactics of years gone past: secretive meetings with passwords in candlelit rooms. After all, a computer is unsafe from being accessed by anyone, no matter what you think.
I’m not saying we should stop using Twitter. I’m saying we should realise it’s not the instrument for change many think it to be- it’s just a social networking site. It can win a few small victories, and aid in some slightly larger ones, but it shouldn’t be the place for discussion of major change, because it can’t be trusted.
Today's blog was a guest post written by Barnaby Merrill. In some ways, I definitely agree with his post- I always feel people overestimate the power of things like online petitions.
If you'd like to check out more of Merrill's writing, he runs a blog called 'Musetron's Blogtastic Adventure', which you can check out by clicking the link below.