We’ve seen trench warfare, guerilla warfare, nuclear warfare, but did you ever think we would see social media warfare?
Considering that I personally have used Facebook and Twitter to learn about the current events in Ukraine, it is obvious that social media has played an extremely active role in the ongoing conflict. According to Pablo Barbera and Megan Metzger, social media appears to be acting as a prominent tool in organizing and motivating Ukrainian protestors. They exclaim that the activity on social media platforms appears to exactly mirror the activity of the protestors on the ground. For example, the number of tweets mentioning the main hashtag, #Euromaidan, increases on the days when the protests are more violent.
To my surprise, the dominant language utilized on Twitter to discuss events in Ukraine is English. Barbera and Metzger explain that this does not necessarily suggest that Ukrainians tweet less, instead, it suggests that their numbers are overshadowed out by the overwhelming international population that is involved. This statistic shows just how much of the world, aside from Central and Eastern Europe, is affected by the events in Ukraine. People from countries all over want to get involved and that they are utilizing social media as a means to do so. Another explanation for the prevalence of English is that Ukranians are actually tweeting in English to spark participation of those outside their country. Barbera and Metzger explain that Ukranians hope the images of violence will be extreme enough to reach populations that are not typically involved in international affairs.
While Twitter is primarily used as a way for protestors and onlookers to voice their opinions, Facebook has been serving a different purpose in the conflict. The main EuroMaidan Facebook operates entirely in Ukranian and is used to spread information and as a logistical tool for those on the actual grounds. Specifically, Facebook has been used to organize volunteers at hospitals, to gather information on those who have died, and to relay this information to their families. There have Facebook pages created specifically for emergencies and to help people get medical care. There are even pages created in English to help publicize information and spread awareness. Similar to Twitter, the activity on Facebook appears to mirror the activity on the ground, increasing, as the protests get more violent. According to Barbera and Metzger, the most common posts are images of police, injured protestors or individuals acting bravely and these are used to motivate the protestors to keep fighting.
Social Media is serving yet another important purpose in our society. It is proving to be an important tool in communicating opinions and facts about current political events to countries around the world. It is playing a crucial role in Ukraine by changing the entire dynamic of the conflict. Without the use of social media, Ukranians would not be able to easily spread information and they wouldn’t be able to reach such large populations. This contradicts Gladwell’s argument that participation in social media cannot foster activism. Instead, it is clear from Barbera and Metzger’s research that social media has sparked a tremendous amount of activism not just in Ukraine, but also from populations all over.