Civil activity in Kaznet does not spill offline: Experts

21 февраля 2012, 10:21

Social networks do not spill into the real life and hardly an effective way to draw many people outside for rallies: only only 5 percent of participants of on-line communities are ready to make real contribution into resolution of problems they hotly discuss on the Internet.

Journalist and blogger Adil Nurmakov, PhD in Political Science, spoke about the increasing civil activity on the Internet in Kazakhstan at the meeting called Web Evolution: from ‘likes’ to civil activity in the Institute of Political Solutions (IPS).

“The civil activity on the Internet [in Kazakhstan] does not beget a growth of civil consciousness. The campaigns in social networks easily gather people, as they do not ask a lot from them. It is often just a feel-good action that makes a person look good in the eyes of his friends (that he has likely never even met). This kind of activism does not carry any risks, requires minimum time and expenses for a person to demonstrate a definitely praiseworthy behavior in an interest group. Social networks gather participants without raising their motivation or activeness,” Nurmakov said noting that some of the messages calling for rallies, e.g. in Facebook, are ‘liked’ by thousands of virtual friends. However, he said, only a tiny number of people or none at all would actually come to the rallies they 'liked' on the Internet.

"A high level of civil consciousness comes first, and this is not something the Internet can bring. A mature civil society is not just a community of NGOs, like many in our country believe, it is the civil initiatives and the people who organize themselves to solve the problems of their society. And then the Internet can be used as a tool. Activism in social networks can be only a supplement to the offline activities," he insisted.

"Evolution on the Internet is unlikely ... it is impossible to grow from 'likes' to civil activity," Adil Nurmakov summarized calling the Internet activity "slacktivism" rather than civil activity.

Adil Nurmakov. Photo courtesy of
Adil Nurmakov. Photo courtesy of

Creative Director of Khabar Yerzhan Suleimenov gave an example from real life: a dolphins-support flashmob was organized via Facebook, but then was attended by only... three people. “More than 200 people supported the idea on the Internet, but none of them came. Only three people, who were the organizers of the campaign, came to the circus building to support the dolphins,” he said. Suleimenov explained that in order to set the dolphins show the circus transported the animals in small containers for several days. And this long and difficult trips put the dolphins under a huge stress.

Suleimenov thinks that civil activity starts with small things. “If I am cheated in a restaurant, I take a picture of the check and upload it on the Internet. I have around three thousand friends and they will find out that this restaurant is prone to cheating its customers,” he gave another example.

Yerzhan Suleimenov. Photo courtesy of
Yerzhan Suleimenov. Photo courtesy of

A video of Ruslan Lazuta from Karaganda was also discussed: he frequently records conversations with road policemen. In his opinion, police officers often stop cars for no particular reason, when no violation of traffic rules are made by the drivers. He uploads the videos on the Internet to fight the injustice. In his interview to IPS representative Almas Sadykov he said that the authorities quickly reacted to his video by inviting him to the Interior Department and looking closely into the situations that he recorded. This proves that the administrations of the cities and police press-services are closely monitoring social networks and trying to respond to the people’s comments.

Irina Chernykh from Kazakhstan Institute of Strategic Research disagrees that Internet offers no evolution for the society. "The people writing posts on the Internet are the same people who inhabit our real life society and who demonstrate no civil position there. They are ready to write about a restaurant they dislike or a public official who spoke rudely: they project their civil position in a different realm using the simplest way available to do so. Uploading a video on Youtube is a civil step, recording a video of ballots manipulation is also a civil step. But they have not yet grown to anything more that making these steps seated comfortably with a cup of coffee in hand. Paradoxic as it may be, this is still a new stage in development of our civil society," she said and called the meeting to create an initiative group to study the ratio of people who are willing to take their action from the Internet into the real life in Kazakhstan.

Chairman of the national Internet-award Konstantin Gorozhankin also gave his opinion on the comments made on the Internet. “People find it easy to agree with somebody, ‘like’ a post, etc, these days. But a closer look makes it crystal clear that people are more inclined to commenting rather than to taking any real actions,” Gorozhankin said.

Konstantin Gorozhankin. Photo courtesy of
Konstantin Gorozhankin. Photo courtesy of

Editor-in-chief of Adil Kaukenov thinks that social networks offer a good broad view on a problem or a situation and that it should be viewed an an instrument. "Overinflated expectations have been vested onto the social networks after the Arab Spring. But it is obvious enough that people are using the social networks the way they always did: for pleasure."

Nevertheless he thinks that ‘like’ is still the first step to something bigger. “A kid in the sandpit will take long time to become an old lady on a bench who can stand for her rights. Same here. It takes time for ‘likes’ to evolve into civil activity,” he said.

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