The March on Washington and Social Media; what might have been


Wikipedia

Wikipedia

Fifty years ago today Dr. Martin Luther King addressed tens of thousands at the March on Washington – as was the case with Don Larsen‘s perfect game several years earlier, I believe many more people today claim to have been in attendance. This event, and in particular his speech – which would become etched in American culture as the I had a dream speech – changed the country. I still have difficulty grasping the fact that there was a need for such an outcry during my lifetime. I was only three at the time, yet have to shake my head in disbelief that things were that bad that recently. Then again they’re far from perfect now as the Trayvon Martin case has shown.

We now live in a world of instant global communication. Email, text messages, Twitter, Facebook all serve to make the world a much smaller place. When they marched on Washington fifty years ago they didn’t have these social media tools at their disposal. It was done the old-fashioned way, through tireless volunteers recruiting and organizing, many of them in very

I can’t imagine a webcast of Dr. King’s speech having quiet the same effect as it did when delivered to a live audience

hostile environments. What would have happened if the March on Washington organizers had access to Facebook or Twitter?  Would there have been ten times as many people in Washington? Twenty? Or would they have settled for an online “event” or petition? I can’t imagine a webcast of Dr. King’s speech having quiet the same effect as it did when delivered to a live audience

It was done the old-fashioned way, through tireless volunteers recruiting and organizing, many of them in very hostile environments

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not belittling social media nor its important role in current crisis situations such as Egypt and Syria. I’m merely pointing out that a generation, perhaps two, may not fully appreciate the magnitude of that march fifty years ago and what it took to accomplish. I fear we’ve become complacent, blasé even. Now a major cause elicits a huge online petition that gets hurled around the world gathering support. But that’s easy,  pressing a “like” button or attaching your name to a list of others, often including cartoon  characters and dead people, isn’t like making an effort to attend something you believe in. Nor I venture are the results.

While the Washington marchers could have used social media to organize and get their message out, it just wouldn’t have been the same in the end.

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