The Role of Social Media in the Movement
by Onan Musoy
The role of social media in the formation of the Arab Spring and the subsequent American Autumn is beyond debate. All observers credit recent technologies with organizing people into sudden, large protests in many of the world’s major cities.
Some long-time activists praise the new form of communication as a means to compress the time necessary to organize before hitting the streets, while also expressing reservations about the Internet’s ability to turn physical protestors into armchair activists.
Traditional protestors argue, and rightly so, history proves that all popular movements achieved their goals through massive numbers of people in public demonstrations. However, it is the first time in history a movement has at hand a tool in which to augment their cause. The potential that social media offers must not be underestimated.
Circumstances, such as being too busy just struggling to survive, geographical remoteness, and self-inhibition, among others, which prevented participation in the past are more readily overcome by the current technology, allowing part-time involvement and creating a higher actual number of total protestors.
Other benefits of social media include remote participants ability to ship supplies to those on the ground as well as give ideas for meetings, advice for problems, and boosts to morale. Venues such as Facebook, Twitter, and various chat rooms dedicated to the protests, enable one to share slogans, affirmations, and other concise ideas, for example: “corporations are not people money is not speech”€ť or “purchase only what you need buy no luxuries.”€ť
The new technology is also developing into an alternative news source where independent reporting gives a truer picture of reality than what is to be gained from mainstream media. A door to democracy in the digital world stands open for those wanting to be part of an ongoing network blessed with the work of protecting both people and planet. Some cities’ Occupiers have made available Livestream transmissions with such sites broadcasting a reality-based alternative to the MSM.
While it is true the success of a movement hinges upon all who physically participate, armchair activists are not to be completely discounted, as they may become tomorrow’s protestors. Perhaps old-school activists need not be reminded by lessons of history, yet it is worth remembering that States have perceived three categories of opposition: protestors, those who physically lend support to them, and those who sympathize with a movement. If push comes to shove, the State might consider those who witness from the comfort of an easy-chair as guilty as those on the streets.
For those who have longed to have a voice in the course of humanity, participating electronically, alongside the brave souls on the physical front lines, is one way to become a citizen of a ‘. . brave new world, that has such people in it!’€ť
(first published in The (Un)Occupy Movement anthology
and parts of this essay first appeared in the article â€śChatting for Change,â€ť
by the same author 10-10-2011 at