Social Networking Brings Strength in Numbers

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.—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.

Image Credit: Tina Casey October 9, 2011.

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.


5 responses to “Social Networking Brings Strength in Numbers

  1. coffeeshoprhino

    Any information on the demographics of people that support, but don’t protest for, OWS?

  2. You do a good job of examining specific quotes from Wasik’s article, but I think it would be very valuable to evaluate the logic of what the people you are quoting are really saying. For example, the article mentions the importance of the movement’s Tumblr over the Twitter or Facebook accounts, but why is this, and in what dimensions?

    Wasik goes on to state that the space provided by Tumblr to display a collection of photographs depicting struggling Americans is what “virtualizes the movement.” Instead of simply questioning the role of social media, it would be intriguing to expand on Wasik’s argument that some types of social media are more valuable in “making [the movement] work” than others. What is it about Tumblr that makes people feel “comfortable about exercising their right to share an opinion” and why isn’t this same sentiment as strong in other social media forms?

    Although Tumblr may provide a more solid base for a collection of emotionally compelling photographs in attempts of gaining support for the OWS cause, Twitter is quite possibly a more effective form of social media when it comes to actually organizing specific events that followers are already in support of. You do an excellent job of picking out important and key quotes from Wasik’s work, but expanding on your analysis would really help tease out what roles different modalities of social media can take on to maximize the effectiveness of the OWS movement in terms of gaining and maintaining support.


  3. This post touches upon a very broad, yet fundamental aspect, of what makes Occupy Wall Street Movement unique compared to other examples of mass protest in America’s history. Social media has played a very significant role in how this movement has taken shape and form. However, I do also agree with Jenna that more detail concerning why this is the case for Tumblr and Twitter would really add to the overall message this post is trying to get across.

    As far as adding to your information pertaining to Occupy Wall Street Movement’s Tumblr, referencing Fred Ritchin could help add that extra dimension. Ritchin discusses the growing importance of “hyperphotography”. He describes “hyperphotography” as the growing bonds between digital photography and metamedia (Ritchin 141). He describes the power photography can encompass when “slicing bits of time”. Ritchin once assembled a collective work of over 400 photographs taken across four decades of history. Although, the work covered four decades of notable events, the pictures only added up to about 4 seconds of actual time due to shutter speeds of cameras (Ritchin 142).

    Ritchin’s writings about “hyperphotography” are very applicable to why the Occupy Wall Street Tumblr is such an effect method to inform many about the movement as well as add to its growth and scope.


  4. Thanks for the feedback, I updated the post with some of your suggestions!

  5. Pingback: What Is OWS: Twitter’s Role in the Movement | Occupy Wall Street Analysis

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