Social Media Allows us to Occupy W(all) Street(s)

First things first, I can’t take credit for the title. I saw a picture of Jay Z wearing an Occupy All Streets t-shirt years ago and the slogan hasn’t left my head since. Shoutout to Hova for inspiring the blog’s title.

I have spent most of my time this week working with my group on our chapter of the Berkeley Guide to Social Movements and reading up on Jeffery Juris’s observations as a participant of the #Occupy Everywhere movement. Through reading Juris’s paper, I was able to find key similarities in the use of social media in the #Occupy Everywhere movement and the #Resist movement that my group has been researching.

The Occupy Wall Street movement began in 2011 with the purpose of challenging corporate greed and unaccountable financial institutions (Juris). While social media was in it’s infancy during that time, Juris observed the usefulness that coupling social media activism with physical protests presents, and has been carried over to more recent protests such as the Women’s March for the #Resist movement. According to Juris, the Occupy Boston movement started from a young women’s twitter post calling for an open assembly in the Boston Common which drew 200 people, and soon grew into an international protest (Juris). Upon reading this, I immediately drew a comparison to my own research. The Women’s March, which was the largest scale protest in U.S. history, began as a Facebook post. Following the 2016 Presidential Election, Teresa Shook, a retired attorney from Hawaii was upset with the results and called for a protest by creating a Facebook event. To her surprise, over ten thousand people RSVP’d and her post sparked the Women’s Marches around the world (Stein).

Photo: AP Photo/Seth Wenig

I find it fascinating the amount of power that social media holds in relation to social movements. Prior to taking this class, I was skeptical. As an avid social media user, I saw how it was an effective form of communication, but never a critical platform for inciting social change. Just one social media interaction can be the difference of an entire movement’s birth, and an issue being glossed over.

Social media has also shown in both movements to be a catalyst in keeping the movements alive as well as getting them started. Juris stated that Twitter and smartphones allowed continual posting of events and resulted in getting large numbers of people to come together in protest (Juris). While this tactic may have been useful in 2011, I believe that it has grown ten fold. Through advanced Twitter searches for the days following the 2016 Presidential Election, there was a plethora of pictures and videos of protests being circulated. The buzz that Twitter was creating was increasing participation in protests through creating an online community of people. One of these tweets is pictured below.

https://twitter.com/kgosztola/status/796492141895806977

2011 may have been a long, long, time ago, but the use of social media in the Occupy Wall Street Movement helped spark the rampant use of social media in almost all social movements today.

Sources:

Juris, Jeffrey S. “Reflections on #Occupy Everywhere: Social Media, Public Space, and Emerging Logics of Aggregation.” American Ethnologist 39, no. 2 (May 1, 2012): 259–79. https://jeffjuris.squarespace.com/s/reflections-on-occupy-everywhere.pdf

Stein, Perry. “The Woman Who Started the Women’s March with a Facebook Post Reflects..”The Washington Post, WP Company, 31 Jan. 2017, www.washingtonpost.com/news/local/wp/2017/01/31/the-woman-who-started-the-womens-march-with-a-facebook-post-reflects-it-was-mind-boggling/?utm_term=.73896020225f.

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