The social commentator and bestselling author has been skeptical of the claims about social media. He recognizes the technological ability to reach people through Twitter, Facebook and social networks, but he takes issue with its larger claims of prowess.
He stops short in his piece for The New Yorker of accepting social media as activism. He points out that many recent examples of political activism cited by proponents of social media were not actual social media events --- the Iranian calls for democracy were western-based, while the Moldovan expressions of opposition to Communism were without the benefit of Twitter.
Gladwell believes these phenomena bear little resemblance to what is required of real activism. It is participation while lessening the motivation that participation requires, he argues.
"In other words, Facebook activism succeeds not by motivating people to make a real sacrifice but by motivating them to do the things that people do when they are not motivated enough to make a real sacrifice," he writes.
Gladwell believes social networks are a "weak-tie" form of communication, in which your Facebook Friends are not really friends and your Twitter followers are not truly following, not comparable to the strong-tie allegiances that require persistence and selflessness.
"The instruments of social media are well suited to making the existing social order more efficient," he concludes. "They are not a natural enemy of the status quo."