Social Media Responsibility

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Real power.
It is a concept I work into almost all of my presentations. Never before has an individual had the ability to go about their day-to-day activities yet – through the power of technology (and more specifically, the Internet) – been able to affect real change and command real power.
What am I talking about?
Look at the SARS pandemic and how the young (and wired) people of China dealt with it:
“Recent incidents during the SARS health crisis in China suggested that the country’s youth had embraced the Internet as a mechanism to build the types of reciprocal trust-building relationships outlined by Putnam in the face of encroaching authoritarian rule. Youth, facing a stark life locked away from society within institutional compounds during the three-month health crisis, appropriated the Internet as a tool to voice their growing concerns and protests over authorities’ handling of the issue. In bulletin board services (BBS), youth took the local and institutional authorities to task for their inept and conspiratorial ways whereby lower level administrators were accused of deceiving the public. The discourse of dissent raised hope that the Internet may indeed act as a tool to promote the kind of vibrant and robust civil society hoped for by proponents of the Internet as a democratizing tool.” – Dr. Ian Weber’s abstract for his presentation: Youth and Online Morality: Can China ‘s Citizenry be Trusted with Freedom of Speech?
Real power wielded by real people – just like you and me.
I was reminded of this today when I read this post by Austin Hill over at Billions With Zero Knowledge: Are you In Over Your Head? An Interview With Julien Smith.
These past few months I’ve been developing strong friendships with both Austin Hill and Julien Smith. There are others as well (just look at what’s going down at Geek Dinners and PodCamp). We’re connecting and meeting through these channels – Blogs, Podcasts, Second Life, unconferences, etc… and we can all affect real change by yielding this real power.
While on this path, I’ve been accepted to TED 2008 and it has opened my eyes to areas of social media beyond marketing, communications, advertising and public relations. I am ramping up my involvement in the David Suzuki Foundation and find myself much more interested in global initiatives that affect change through leveraging the power of technology and social media.
I grabbed the .com and .org for Social Media Responsibility. I have no idea what I am going to do with this or where it will lead me, but one thing that clicked after reading Are you In Over Your Head? An Interview With Julien Smith is that we have way too many smart people who have a global audience, and there has got to be a way to harness this power and do what we’re all meant to do while we’re here: make a difference.


  1. I couldn’t agree with you more Mitch. There is so much that we can do beyond what we are doing already. I’ve tried to proove this on a small scale with things like the MS Walk through and other things, but there is more we can do. MUCH MORE.
    And a HUGE congrats on TED. I’m going to be able to say “i knew him when….”
    Onward and upwards.

  2. I was struck by the example of social in media in China during the SARS crisis. As someone who lived in Asia at that time and experienced the impact, certainly I agree there are many lessons to learn from the way China handled the situation. Staying true to Confucian values, China wanted to keep the social harmony and decided to not communicate the severity of the situation to the rest of the world. Places such as Hong Kong and Toronto suffered greatly as a result. The severity of SARS in China, however, was not revealed by young folks using social media. The younger generation may have verbally taken Chinese officials to task for their handling of the crisis, but the real story was broken by Dr. Jiang Yanyong who used traditional pen and paper to share with the rest of the world what was happening in China. Dr. Jiang later came under severe governmental scrutiny during the anniversary of Tiananmen Square. The government was concerned that Dr. Jiang may disrupt social harmony by speaking out at about Tiananmen. For more info about Dr. Jiang, please see
    An additional example of social media’s growing importance in China can be found with the recent blog discussion and grass roots campaign asking Starbuck’s to close its cafe in The Forbidden City. A high-profile television reporter with CCTV criticized the Starbucks outlet in his blog and a powerful grass roots campaign has landed this issue on the front page of the Financial Times. For more information about the issue, please see The Starbucks case provides a great opportunity to look at social media and social responsibility in china, and also a window into issues such as economic nationalism in Asia. I just recently discussed this latter point in my blog at
    My students and I are researching and writing a case study about Starbucks in China, and I will be happy to share with all in just a couple weeks.

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