The power of social media, as a tool to create international social political movements, was just witnessed by the entire world on January 21, 2017. On that historic day, millions of women, men, and children marched in over 400 cities worldwide for a wide range of causes, but primarily for women’s rights. I was one of them. It was an overwhelmingly positive experience, and although I knew that planned “sister” marches were occurring in different American cities, I was not prepared to later see the images of hordes of protesters in places like London, Tokyo, Kenya, and even Antarctica! How did all of these people get the message to protest? Facebook.
We already know that Facebook is a global phenomenon, but what really makes it great is the opportunity it has to potentially change our world forever. With only one-and-a-half months of planning, the “slacktivist” organizers of the protest created a Facebook invitation for a march on Washington intended to shed light to the women’s issues that President Donald Trump and his administration either oppose or ignore. Then the invitation went viral. It made its way across 6 continents to cities I can’t even pronounce. Women all over the world accepted their Facebook invites, and “shared” it with their mothers, grandmothers, sisters, and daughters to pledge their attendance to what is being called the biggest protest in U.S. history. Can you imagine being able to accomplish that without Facebook? Not really. Can you see the possibility of many more worldwide peaceful demonstrations of unity between different walks of life? I can.
What was so impactful to me during this experience was the inclusiveness of the demonstration. Women of all colors, backgrounds, and religions carried signs with messages that ranged from traditional Feminist chants to the controversial “Black Lives Matter.” It was in many ways like walking into a real-life Facebook newsfeed, except all of the “posts” were picket signs with memes of all our favorite characters from the Trump reality show. It almost didn’t make any sense to have so many messages, and that’s the reason why it’s being criticized by experienced protesters. It’s logical to think that the key to a successful demonstration is to rally people behind a clear idea, considering that this notion has generated some of the most successful demonstrations to create change such as the March on Washington in 1963. Yet, it isn’t illogical to think that numerous messages can’t produce a similar result.
Let me explain. The little communities we build on Facebook are changing the way we think. In person, we tend to gravitate to people like ourselves, but on Facebook we get the opportunity to view the “virtual” lives of others who could be virtually nothing like us. Of course, this is only true if you decide to live outside your “virtual” bubble like I have done. I step out of my bubble and “friend” the frightened “Black Lives Matter” supporter, the trans woman fighting for all-gender bathrooms, as well as the Hipster vegan who only posts videos of cows being slaughtered. In many ways, these people were all represented at the March, and surprisingly they all marched side by side. How? Because these people are all somehow connected to each other on Facebook. What I witnessed this past Saturday is that more people are using Facebook the way I do; as a way to learn how to befriend people with different views.
The Women’s March on Washington reported by the New York Times online: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/21/us/women-march-protest-president-trump.html