Through the aid of social media, the ability to bring together individual actions can make each one more powerful. “If the Internet didn’t exist, Barack Obama would not be president of the United States,” says Ben Rattray, the founder of Change.org. “The fact that the most powerful person in the world wouldn’t be in that position without the Internet and organizing online says something.” The power of the Internet in Obama’s case, Rattray says, was its unique ability to organize thousands of passionate people to work together for change. While 100,000 people ranting on Twitter might not be worth anything, organizing those 100,000 people in a simultaneous action can have a significant impact.
It might be really difficult to go protest in person, but it might be easier to group people using the web to simultaneously send letters to a single target. Social media changes public awareness. Because information floats around so freely and quickly, it is easier for people to get access to it. The donations to the Haitian earthquake are a great example. People were moved to text in a donation, and a few were committed enough to get on a plane and go to Haiti to help. These people became aware of the impact of the disaster in a part of the world that might have never even thought about. Social media gave it more urgency than just seeing and hearing the story on the news, making it more personal and allowing for immediate individual action. This is extremely helpful in raising donations quickly and spreading important information. Social media technologies have also changed the ability to act. I believe they allow us to feel a level of involvement in events that we might not usually feel. Although maybe only a small percentage of people who express interest in a cause online are willing to commit to offline action, social media interaction can be viewed as the first step in a an engagement. It has the potential to move people toward social action and change.