OWS and Social Media

The Occupy Wall Street movement that has stormed across America is infamous for its use of modern technology to spread its movement and engage more protestors. According to Malcolm Gladwell, activism linked to social media, such as Twitter, Tumbler, and Facebook, is weaker than protests in the past. These technologies create only weak ties that distance those involved in the movement. It’s easy to follow a group on Twitter or Facebook and say that you are involved with the cause. However, past movements didn’t have the same luxury as is afforded to us now. Those involved with a cause had strong relationships with other protestors as well as an ever-present fear for the consequences of their actions (i.e. Civil Rights Movement).

Gladwell’s view, however, is flawed. While it is easier now to get involved in a movement it doesn’t make it weak or any less effective. Social media as used with OWS spread word faster than before and brought out more support than past protests. OWS initially used Tumbler to blog about their endeavor and gain supporters. Although it is arguable that these ties aren’t as personal, it still has the effect of bringing people together and making a cause known.

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4 responses to “OWS and Social Media

  1. coffeeshoprhino

    What is your evidence that the movement spread via social media? Examples?

  2. What about the effect of “liking” a page on Facebook? In David Carr’s article from the New York Times, “Hashtag Activism, and Its Limits,” Carr states that even though someone may “like” a page or topic on Facebook, it does not necessarily mean that they truly care about it. Would you agree or disagree with the statement that “liking” a page may create only a weak tie with a movement like OWS?

  3. Overall, I would agree that a weaker link is created when “liking” a page rather than actually attending a rally or being physically present in a movement. However, there is strength in a simple “like”. That small action acknowledges that you recognize the cause and believe it to be a valid and just movement. Although someone who only “likes” a page may not actively participate in the movement, awareness is still being spread about what’s going on. After all, informaion is a very powerful weapon, and the more informed you are about a social movement, the easier it will be to decide whether or not to commit yourself to it.

  4. While I think you made a strong claim opposing Gladwell’s rhetoric, I also think there is some truth in what he reports. The Occupy Wall Street Movement is famous for adopting the phrase “we are the 99%.” In a movement that attracts many individuals of the lower and poor classes, it must be understood that these individuals may not have access to the resources that enable them to make use of social media such as Twitter, Tumbler and Facebook. Gladwell’s claim that activism linked to these methods of social media create only weak ties is pretty accurate if a large portion of the movement doesn’t have daily access to these forms of activism. However, Gladwell’s view still may be flawed, as your argued, in asserting that all the activism associated with these forms of social media is thus weakened. For example, a individual in a lower socioeconomic class may be exposed to a piece of street art associated with the movement which inspires them to become an active participant in Occupy Wall Street. Similarly, another individual who has access to forms of social media may also be exposed to a photograph of this street art which has a similar effect upon them. So while I think you made a strong claim and conclusion, I did also found there was another way to assert your claim.

    –Jenny Questell

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