Refugees Welcome: Strong or Weak Ties?

When discussing social movements, the issue of weak and strong ties is crucial in understanding how the people within a movement are connected to one another. The internet has drastically changed the way in which people join, participate and learn about social movements. It has helped social movements reach people all over the world and resonate with ones who differ immensely from one another. This can be seen more clearly in Gladwell’s article “Small Change- Why the revolution will not be tweeted.”

When discussing social movements, Gladwell found that activism that challenges the status quo is not something for everyone, and that it takes actual sacrifice, he calls this high-risk activism. Strong ties are what enable this kind of activism, the most committed activists were connected to the movement through strong ties. For example, those with strong ties had close friends or family within the movement and were more likely to remain members.

Instead, the kind of activism which is associated with social media is built upon weak ties within the community. However, Gladwell also points out the kind of strength which can be achieved through weak ties. Social media is a way to manage our acquaintances, as well as friendships; therefore, this enables us to keep contact with people around the world. Gladwell  also sees it as a good source of new ideas and information and as a tool for innovation and interdisciplinary collaboration. Therefore, the internet could be a strength when it comes to social movements to exploit out connections and acquaintances for a good cause.

If one were to categorize Refugees Welcome as either strong or weak ties in accordance with Gladwell’s definition, the organization would most probably be part of weak ties. Such assumption is clear when observing the role of internet in divulging the message of the organization and recruiting members.

However, Refugees Welcome also breaks through the characteristics Gladwell defined as its Italian sector has been clearly going against the status quo and taking risks. This is clear as the Italian government recently implemented a new legislation “DL Sicurezza”, which aims to reduce migration by making integration near impossible and heightening penalties for crimes committed by migrants. The targeting of migrants by the legislation has actually caused an increase of families that volunteer to help the organization. This shows that what Gladwell argued is merely a guide: high-risk activism that challenges the status quo is not something for everyone and it requires strong ties to keep the movement going, but not always.

Photo by: Ilias Bartolini (Flickr)

Where is your humanity - Refugees Welcome




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