When you think back to Occupy Wall Street, can you recount any longstanding changes that were a direct response to this outcry? I can remember it clearly in Philadelphia- going for my run through City Hall and having to avoid the whole area for weeks or else run in the middle of an active protest. But did they change anything? Does the world have less inequality?
In an intriguing article by NY Times writer Zeynep Tufekci, she examines the use of social media to incite riots at the face of injustice and compares it to the “old” way of doing things, coming to the conclusion that maybe expediency and far-reaching posts aren’t the answer to deliver long-standing results.
Tufekci discusses recent mass demonstrations which were fueled by Twitter and Facebook. Liked minded people see the message and rush off to the site of gathering to show their support. It may last a day, a week, a month or in the case of Egypt, several years. But what happens afterwards is her focus for this article. People dissipate, they go back to what they were doing because in many cases there is no clear leadership or marching orders, and the momentum dies.
When thinking back to the 60’s when people actually did change the world, there were months of planning that went into a single protest. Leadership was assembled well in advance, strategies were in place and people accomplished the uncompromisable.
“By the time the United States government was faced with the March on Washington in 1963, the protest amounted to not just 300,000 demonstrators but the committed partnerships and logistics required to get them all there — and to sustain a movement for years against brutally enforced Jim Crow laws. That movement had the capacity to leverage boycotts, strikes and demonstrations to push its cause forward.”
This article was a refreshing wake up call. It reminds us that the internet is not the absolute answer to the balance of life, which is easy to forget when deluged with screens in every aspect of living. There is something to be said about grassroots organizing, long-term planning and the power of human to human contact. That is not to say that Twitter or Facebook are not powerful tools that can be used for good, but they simply do not make up for the human organizing factors that led protests and marches many moons ago, when they did change the world for the better.