The Role of Twitter in Social Unrest

June/25/2015 5:01AM
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My generation is not into social media. Maybe Facebook, but not Twitter. As a good reporter, I decided to experiment with Twitter to see what it’s all about. Mostly it’s about wasting time. Hard to believe all those millions of people we see glued to their phones tweeting away are so lost for productive ways to use time.

Facebook users grow weary of seeing pictures of  food. Twitter users get less of that but more of the pithy platitudes. Twitter limits the words one can use so you have to say it fast.  But, Twitter plays a huge role in reaching out to  a group of followers to motivate behavior. Here’s a scary example:

Boom: Charleston Just Shut Down Racial Hatemongers With This Message To Obama And Sharpton

Several Twitter users took the initiative further with calls to ban others.

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A common fixture at the race riots of the last several months, Deray McKesson has chronicled his participation to the celebration of many of his 164,000 Twitter followers. Western Journalism shared some of his front-line activism in covering protests in McKinney, Texas, earlier this month.

As civil rights leaders converge on Charleston, S.C., in the wake of a mass shooting last week, however, many Twitter users are making it clear McKesson and his ilk are not welcome in the state. His antagonism continues to be criticized, often in posts accompanied by the hashtag #GoHomeDeRay. A man whose prominence can be traced to an earlier Twitter hashtag, #BlackLivesMatter, McKesson was quick to respond to the social media backlash.

He appeared on CNN Sunday to tell his detractors that he “wouldn’t be here if those nine people had not been killed.”

Despite the tragedy on which he pins the impetus for his latest trip, many South Carolinians believe his presence – and that of others seen as racial agitators – will only exacerbate an already tense situation.

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So, like flash mobs, this gentleman can send an instant message to 164,000 like-minded followers and encourage them to travel to Charleston and stir up trouble. It’s scary to understand the power of Twitter and the role it can play in situations where emotions already run high. 

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