How Twitter topped totalitarianism

The net result proves that the age of the totalitarian dictatorship is over. Pictures of protests, police violence, and the reality of life on the streets in post-election Iran manage to seep out through the social networks. It’s impossible for any American user of Twitter to remain focused on the iPhone’s new features with this much real world life-and-death stuff crowding the inbox.

Most observers of the Twitter-fueled revolution rightly point out that this activity is at its most effective when it actually mobilizes real humans, puts bodies on the street, and gives dissidents the opportunity to organize successful retreats. Digital dissidence alone is easy, and easy to ignore.

But I think it’s also too easy to underestimate the real power of the Internet to provide more than information. On the Internet, content is not king – it never was. The value of Tweets right now is less the information they contain than the solidarity they promote. Like civil rights protesters who sang rousing hymns as they were carried off to jail, Twitterers are bearing witness to what’s happening around them, and calling out into the darkness of cyberspace for confirmation. I’m here. You’re here, too. We are present.