OK, it may not have had the riot police quaking in their boots, but the rather charmingly named Dance Against The Deficit outside the Bank of England last week was significant in one important respect. It was organised exclusively through social media sites.
Cut to Tunisia and the much more serious events there. In the absence of radio and TV (controlled by the state) social media has played a vital role in spreading news of the protests and directing people to particular sites in Tunis, the capital. Would the hated President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and his puppet government have been forced from power if social media was unavailable to the protesters? Somehow you can’t help feeling that the sheer might of Ben Ali’s military and police regime would have prevailed.
Back in London, numerous groups protesting about the cuts and this current government’s policies to deal with the deficit have sprung up: 38 Degrees, UK Uncut and False Economy are just a few examples. And they too use social media – particularly Facebook and Twitter – to organise themselves and mobilise their supporters. Social media is now an essential tool of modern protest and a potential headache for all those in authority across the world.
Against this background, another power struggle is unfolding, this time between instant messaging and email as the primary means of business communications. According to Jack Dorsey, the 34 year old founder of Twitter, he now only uses email for especially formal matters. Most of his day-to-day business conversations are conducted via Twitter.
Well, you could argue, he would say that wouldn’t he.
The same could be said for Mark Zuckerberg, the famous founder of Facebook, who seems to support much of what Dorsey was saying.
But the facts are actually on their side. According to research group Nielsen, the average US business computer user in the US sent or received 140 emails a day in 2008. Last year that figure had dropped to 93 and in 2011, Nielsen estimates the American executives will be dealing with just 84 emails daily.
In parallel with decline in email usage has been a huge increase in the use of instant messaging accounts among business people. And who said the art of conversation was dead? What’s good enough for rioters in Tunis and protesters in London is obviously OK with business people too.