Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Twitter’s Efficacy in Aiding Social Transformation

I talked last week about how Twitter makes life on the Internet easier. You can customize your allegiance to certain products, celebrities, and even people in your real-life, carbon-based social network. This week I’ll be a little more specific and talk about how Twitter makes social transformation, big and small, easier than ever before. In this article I’ll focus on how Twitter makes it easier to be funny and how in turn humor can lead to social change.

Twitter is easily translatable into the language of irony: brief, content heavy statements meant for immediate impact and in some cases prolonged relevance. For example, a particularly cogent tweet could, in another context, be a powerful bit of dialogue in a movie, comedy or otherwise. If you’re a stand up, you no longer have to “grind it out” on the underground circuit for years hoping that the big break will come your way.

There are a thousand potential George Carlin’s and Bill Cosby’s out there waiting to be heard who may not have ready access to a comedy club where they can test out material. Twitter in this case serves as the intermediary that open mics and road gigs used to be by necessity. Used effectively, one can acquire a sizable fan base through consistent activity on Twitter and other sites like it, as well through a process of shrewd and comprehensive personal branding.

I say this because it is also much easier to cultivate an audience of like-minded people than ever before. We don’t live in an age where artistic viability is judged solely on how broadly appealing one is, whether that’s in their comedy, or any art form they choose to practice. That is not to say of course that we should prevent someone from becoming the next John Lennon or James Brown, inspiring people with a timeless message while rocking super hard at the same time, but someone who is trying to make their way in the artistic or pop-cultural game no longer has to look to these monoliths as the only way to make a living and be influential.

Indeed, part of the revolutionary part of Twitter is that everyone can get up and reach an audience almost immediately. As they develop, they develop as a collective instead of in isolation. Being on Twitter, or any other active social networking site, is like the 21st century version of being at a speakeasy, coffee shop, or a hip socialist bookstore in the not-yet-gentrified part of town. You can make a tangible difference on the world without leaving your bedroom.

In short, the action required for social change can take many forms, big and small. With Twitter, and the Internet as a whole, relevant information is effectively organized and instantly accessible to all curious parties. That, combined with the human desire to connect to others, and humor’s power in not only easing social tension but also in speaking truth to power, make Twitter an ideal climate for cultivating both widespread civil disobedience and cathartic, brain-cleansing laughter in equal measure.

- Alex Curtis

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