Friday, February 25, 2011

Malcolm Gladwell, still down on social media, and still wrong.

Despite the embarrassing article Malcolm Gladwell wrote last fall, he remains adamantly opposed to the idea that there is much of interest in new social media platforms. The title of his piece: “Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted,” was off in every respect.

The changes in how we communicate, because of social media are not small. And the revolution in Egypt was not only tweeted–Twitter and Facebook were important communications tools during the protests that brought down Hosni Mubarek.

Last month as Mubarek’s rule was teetering on the precipice, Gladwell wrote that “people with a grievance will always find ways to communicate with each other. How they choose to do it is less interesting, in the end, than why they were driven to do it in the first place.”

As an agency devoted to finding better ways to communicate, this statement is of course objectionable. But on a broader scale, it’s simply a stubborn refusal to face reality.

Radio and television were hardly uninteresting innovations in communications–they changed the world. How much social media changes the world remains to be seen, but it is changing it. Egypt is one example, an important one, but one of many.

I have high regard for Malcolm Gladwell. He has written outstanding books including The Tipping Point, Blink and Outliers. His usually excellent articles in The New Yorker are additional examples of his proud body of work.

It’s precisely because he is such an innovative thinker and writer that his queasiness with social media is especially notable, and odd.

It’s time for a new article from Gladwell: “Big Change: Why more revolutions will be tweeted.”

Jim Breitinger, writing for RIESTER

This post originally appeared at

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