Seeing as my last few posts have been mainly about e-books and digital publishing, I decided it was high time to shift gears and explore other aspects of digital writing. That isn’t to say I’ll stop posting about e-books and digital publishing–the field of digital publishing is so multifaceted and ever-changing, that it’s impossible for a bibliophile like me to ever stop reading and writing about that. But for today, a certain trending topic on Twitter has recently caught my attention. Most of us are very familiar with Twitter. We use it on a daily basis, tweeting about subjects ranging from #homework to #ladygaga. But perhaps most of us haven’t thought of Twitter as a vehicle for bringing about social change, as a way to bring attention to social issues.
This is exactly what happened in the case of Khader Adnan, a Palestinian prisoner who was accused of being a part of the Islamic Jihad militant group and was taken prisoner in Israel. Upon being arrested, Adnan went on hunger strike to protest his imprisonment, which was based on Israel’s controversial policy of detaining suspected Palestinian militants for long periods on end, with no charges against them. Adnan was on hunger strike for over two months, until it was finally agreed to have him released on April 17.
But what brought about this decision? A couple of weeks ago, the case of Khader Adnan was relatively obscure and had not been covered by mainstream media, such as news channels. In an effort to bring this story much-needed attention, a group of cyber activists decided to resort to social media. They set up Twitter hashtags and tweeted at least once a day using those hashtags, in the hopes of having a hashtag become a trending topic on Twitter. The hashtags included the prisoner’s name, #KhaderAdnan, and other phrases such as #respect4Khader, #dying2live, and #HungerStrikingfor65Days. Eventually, the activist group did, indeed, achieve their goal, with the hashtag #KhaderAdnan becoming a trending topic on Twitter. The trending topic inevitably caught the media’s attention and triggered the whirlwind of coverage, and subsequently, the decision to release Adnan.
Adnan’s story is just one example of the capacity for social media to bring about social change. Social media has many purposes, and while we may mainly use social media tools such as Twitter to post vintage photos of our dog or tweet about what a rough day we’re having, social media has a substantial role to play in bringing attention to issues we are passionate about. Moreover, we use writing to bring attention to these issues. Social media tools encourage the spread of ideas through the written word (sometimes combined with other media)–except that that written word reaches a much larger crowd. Social media is much more than an outlet for posting our arbitrary thoughts or talking about what we’re doing–it’s an outlet for voicing our opinions on things that matter to us. Social media has an ability to connect users from various locations and time zones and allow these users to have one big, unique conversation (or, a book club–see my “A Perfect Marriage: Social Media and Books” post below), and we have the means to take advantage of this ability and use it to shed light on topics we feel deserve attention. Tools like Twitter, although viewed by some as a mere website people use to idle their time away, is something that, when used for social change, can yield real results. This is one of several stories where social media users have used social media tools to enact change. It’s time we looked at social media as a means to have our voices heard, as a tool that plays a substantial role in society.
“When you give everyone a voice and give people power, the system usually ends up in a really good place.” –Mark Zuckerberg