Clay Shirky starts his book “Here Comes Everybody” with a story about a stolen cell phone to illustrate that humans can gather into organized groups without monetary incentives or formal management. All that is necessary for this is social media and people that believe in a common cause.
This story is a perfect example of how social networking can be used to raise awareness of an issue and to help recruit others to help out. Evan used his platform as a programmer in the financial industry to create a blog and a chat forum where developing information could be posted immediately and where interested parties could discuss a further course of action. If he did not create a central place where he could post daily updates and didn’t spread the word about the blog through his existing connections, the story would not have developed at such a brisk pace or even happened at all.
Social media has flourished because it is a platform on which immediate feedback can occur- information can be edited and updated in real time, and visitors to the site can interact with the content through comments, forums, and emailing the creator of the site. In this situation, the blog caused people to discuss the actions and threats of Sasha and her brother, the pictures Sasha posted that were taken with the stolen phone, and the classification of this case to be “loss” instead of a “theft” which does not warrant action from the NYPD.
A handful of individuals would never have been able to reverse the verdict of the NYPD. However, mass public complaints by millions of people due to Digg and the coverage of news outlets were able to do just that. If steered correctly, a minor story can spread like wildfire and gain leverage just through the sheer number of people wanting to come together for a mutual cause.
Although this was not the first nor last phone forgotten in a cab, this was the first phone which successfully used social networking tools to raise awareness and spur action from the audience. Social media alone has the power to “self-assemble and for individuals to contribute to a group effort without requiring formal management” (21).
Skirky chose this story as an example of using social media to organize and to share a goal with a relatable, non-financial motive: to return a stolen cellphone into the right hands. This made all the difference in calling attention to a verdict that would gone unchallenged otherwise.