But when the man is wrong he deserves to be called out.
In a recent New Yorker article, Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted, Gladwell writes that we are told that the world is in the midst of a revolution. Twitter, Facebook, blogging et al have given the people a voice that they previously had not had. This will be the medium of social change for the next generation.
Gladwell vehemently disagrees.
In his inimitable style, Gladwell makes the case that there is a qualitative difference between strong-tie connections and weak-tie connections. He holds that strong-tie connections come from real life social interactions and friendships. Electronic relationships only create weak-ties. Further, he contends that the purported social changes that Facebook and Twitter have effected are bogus. (He might be right about that one…).
Gladwell then demonstrates that all social change generates from relationships. I agree. Read this post for more on that: Human Beings Are Social Beings).
Here is what gets my goat: Gladwell assumes that relationships created with Twitter / Facebook / blogging are weak-tie relationships. That is an assumption that many would disagree with. Further, he makes this assumption while sitting in his ivory tower of “old media”, writing for a magazine in a dying industry AND, here is the kicker – he DOESN’T USE FACEBOOK OR TWITTER!!! Gladwell has a twitter account, in fact he has two twitter accounts and he has 22 total tweets between the two of them.
Shorter Gladwell: “I don’t know how to use Twitter, ergo, it must be useless.”
Finally, the next social changes will almost certainly come via strong-tie relationships. However, social media has the ability to create strong-tie relationships if that is your goal and you use them to achieve that goal. Revolutions will inevitably occur. And invariably the revolutions will take place in real life and they will also take place in the digital world. Those who have strong-tie relationships in the digital world will utilize social media to help their cause and that will be a decided advantage over the cave dwellers and Luddites who listen to Malcolm Gladwell when it comes to social media.