There is no doubt that Occupy Wall Street (OWS) is one of the biggest political movements in American History. “As of January 31st, [UNC sociologists Caren and Gaby] identified more than 1,400 local and national Facebook groups with over 340,000 users contributing more than 3,000,000 posts and comments” (Caren & Gaby 1). However, Facebook is only one of the social networking sites that OWS is feeding off of, and not even its main source.
According to Bill Wasik, “The media harped on how these protests grew through Twitter, but it was really the movement’s Tumblr—wearethe99percent. tumblr.com—that made it work. Those photos of struggling Americans essentially virtualized the occupation the street protesters were merely the visible symbol of the giant, subterranean mob of Americans struggling to get by. ” (Wasik 10). With Twitter, users have a limit of 140 characters, so generally you just see short sentences of support. Facebook is more about news and photos of the actual protests and users being able to post publicly the events that they attend. All social networks are important to the cause, but Tumblr captures the soul of the movement much more than any other.
The photographs Bill Wasik’s referred to on the OWS Tumblr are not pictures of mobs of people protesting in cities, they are pictures of individuals with their personal stories, explaining why this movement is meaningful to them. Just like Fred Ritchin discusses about an “interactive revolution” in hyperphotography, the subject of the photo is also using their voice to describe their own personal reactions to the movement (Ritchin 9). Although these people are not subjects of candid photography, and have created these images themselves, that could be exactly what makes Tumblr the most powerful drive behind OWS.
According to CleanTechnica writer Tina Casey it’s not just the ability to share photos, videos, and thoughts but the fact that “people feel more comfortable about exercising their right to share an opinion” (Casey 1). The Economist writer G.L. theorizes that this is because, “Writing out your story and taking a picture of yourself doesn’t require the commitment and perhaps risk of going to a march, even if there’s one going on in your area; but it does take a bit more effort than writing a tweet or clicking a “Like” button” (G.L. 1). The people that have felt moved enough by OWS to tell their personal encounters bring a sense of solidarity to group over the internet that could normally only be felt when present at the actual protest, shoulder to shoulder to other supporters.
Through social technology almost anyone can be involved in the movement. According to Héctor Codero-Guzmán, PhD, a sociology professor at the City University of New York, who wrote an academic paper on the visitors on the Occupy website‘s demographics, less than one-fourth of the site’s visitors have actually been to an Occupy protest (Franzen 1) . So, whether they are standing in front of a laptop camera as a protestor on Wall Street or watching the feed from their office desk, these wide-spread supporters make Occupy Wall Street a more wide-spread and decentralized protest than this country has ever seen before.