What If Selma Had Social Media


by CJ Witherspoon


Imagine A 17 year old boy in the deep south joining thousands of others in a demonstration protesting the gross mistreatment of people in his community. The sounds of uplifting songs of hope collide with the police bullhorns ordering the people to disperse. The tension reaches a fever pitch and the powder keg of anger and racial intolerance is only seconds away from exploding. In a split second the unthinkable happens. A wave of 80 pound German Shepherd’s are released on the crowd. The undeserving victims are men, women, and children who suffer broken bones and lacerations because of their skin color. Water hoses are turned on the crowd. The rushing force of 200 PSI is enough to not only knock a grown man over but it’s enough to tear flesh.

This scene is burned into the minds of a generation not because of a verbal account from an eye witness. It’s forever etched in the fabric of our being because of social media.

As we reflect on the 50th anniversary of the events of “Bloody Sunday” in Selma Alabama I got to thinking. What if MLK had Twitter? Would the Civil Rights movement have unfolded differently?

The social media of the Civil Rights era was televised journalism and some suggest that without media coverage the rest of the country and the world for that matter would not have known just how horrific the south was for African Americans. This could have delayed the civil rights movement by years in some estimations. People relied on human to human (H2H) connection to spread the word and mobilize thousands to protest and rally. This social network was crucial to the success of civil justice and the progression of our society.

There’s a strong parallel between our grandparents’ generation and Millennials. The millennial generation has the ability to connect with people from around the world at a moments notice to mobilize and convene in protest or expand networking relationships because of social media. We forge connections with complete strangers based on the common bonds of a cause or an idea but some believe that this ability is hindering H2H connections.

For it to be a truly effective communication vehicle, all parties bear a responsibility to be genuine, accurate, and not allow it to replace human contact altogether. ~ Susan Tardanico via Forbes


People say that Millennials are disconnected from the world because we’re constantly on our Twitter, Instagram,Facebook, Snapchat, etc… With videos of people walking into water fountains at the mall because they’re to engulfed in what’s going on in their phones it would be hard to argue against that statement. However, millennials are a hybrid of both digital and H2H communication. In the office environment emails, teleconferencing, and Instant Messaging have replaced much of the direct contact with our colleagues, but Millennials prefer to walk over to the person they need to communicate with and have a direct conversation. Studies show that on 7% of communication is written or verbal. The other 93% is based on non-verbal body language so it may be hard for people to genuinely connect through digital platforms. In a Forbes article by Susan Tardanico she states that “All parties bear a responsibility to be genuine, accurate, and not allow it to replace human contact altogether.” This is something that millennials intuitively know and understand because our generation spent our formative years without the internet as it exists today. Generation Z may have a bit more trouble with this than Gen Y.

Older generations have said, “You’re disconnected from reality with your head in your phone”. While this may be true to some degree it’s also true that no other generation has had to manage as many streams of connectivity with H2H interactions in history. However, my rebuttal is that we’re more likely to connect with people without the biases of our forefathers than any other generation in history.

Without Twitter we would have to wait until six o’clock to find out the news of the day. Now we know what’s happening in other countries before their local news does. Without Twitter we couldn’t engage in group chats with people from around the world on any given evening about a chosen subject (shouts out to my #MillennialTalk peeps).  Without social media we may not of had the Arab spring, Occupy Wall Street, and countless others political and ideological uprisings. Without social media the nationwide “Die-Ins” and mass protest demonstrations in response to the shooting death of Michael Brown may not have occurred. People were even live tweeting as Seal Team Six raided Bin Ladens home!

What if MLK had Twitter? We’ll never know but in todays always on media driven world the revolution is being digitized. The accounts of injustice are not only tweeted about, they are filmed and uploaded to YouTube. News outlets now rely heavily on the eye witness with a smartphone to be the eyes, ears, and voice of world changing breaking news. All of this is made possible by the desire for information to be democratized and made readily accessible to all. We as millennials demand transparency and authenticity in our relationships both online and off. Our need to connect with others is why the revolution will be tweeted and the dreams of a multi-cultural collaborative society once shared by Martin Luther King will be realized both domestically and abroad.

You can follow CJ @Cjwither

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