Fifty years ago, a movement was started by gathering people together in physical locations in huge numbers to create significant demonstrations. The civil rights movement is an example of this. Thousands of people gathered together and marched for their freedom.
Today, movements are started by bringing people together virtually on social media platforms to make their voices known.
In theory, they seem similar. But in practice, the rules are completely different. The Internet brings much more visibility in much less time, which leads to a lot less commitment and a lot more noise. Taking a stand for something by joining a demonstration is on a completely different level than taking a stand by tweeting.
It’s more common to post something online that happens in real life than to share something in real life that you find online.
Websites like Buzzfeed and Upworthy have taken off recently because they’ve tapped into an understanding of the psychology of people hiding behind computer screens, especially younger people. They do this by creating short, triggering headlines that is usually over-exaggerated. People who read these websites “like” and “share” what they read, and maybe get a kick out of it for the next week, but it usually doesn’t make a difference to them a couple months down the line.
Movements today need to figure out how to powerfully and effectively cut through the noise, taking advantage of people’s short attention span and generally flakiness to build something that is strong and effective.
I haven’t figured it out, but I’m trying. What have you noticed?