I wrote this write-up for a research journal during May 2012. I am now publishing it on my blog in parts.
2011 MASS UPRISINGS: SOCIAL MEDIA TRENDS - PART-III
Inspired by the Arab Spring, the ‘Occupy’ movement began as a call ‘Occupy the Wall Street’ to gather for a small protest at the Wall Street aimed at highlighting the growing rich-poor divide, corporate impact on policymaking and a vulnerable socioeconomic ecology in the wake of the recent global financial crisis but soon became a global movement including some violent demonstrations. About 1000 protestors organized the first protests on September 17, 2011. By the strength of crowd it was not significant.
But the social media buzz came alive and it fuelled the movement beyond imagination. By October 15, simultaneous rallies were in held in 900 cities across the globe. Genetically a social media movement, the ‘Occupy’ movement grew phenomenally in just few months, both on the ground as well as in the online sphere, with efficient use of the Internet and the social media tools.
Threat of another global recession looming large brought the people together who found the social media platforms an apt place to connect and express their anger. There were just over 2 million Twitter posts on November 15, 2011, the day the police took apart the Zuccotti Park camp in New York. YouTube is flooded with millions of ‘Occupy’ videos. A Facebook search for ‘Occupy’ on December 16, 2011 showed top ten Facebook links with around 7,00,000 followers. According to a website Decmocracticunderground.com, the collective Occupy’ followers on the Twitter are now over 5.5 million.
Naturally the online surge of activity has seen attempts to crackdown on the voices in the online sphere as well as decamping the protestors in different cities but followers of the ‘Occupy’ movement have come back by devising innovative tools. According to a Mashable report, protesters developed innovative tools and apps like Sukey, Open Mesh and Apps for the Apocalypse, customized use of Skype and blogging platform Tumblr, a Facebook app Occupy Network to name a few to bypass the government censorships.
India’s anti-corruption movement before it fizzled out: Even back home in India, one of the major reasons for the unprecedented support to the anti-corruption movement led by Anna Hazare has been attributed to the optimized use of the social media based on a strong Internet infrastructure in the country.
According to an American Express Global Customer Service Barometer, 2012, India has over 100 million Internet users. 87 per cent of these have social media presence. Now this huge count of population can significantly alter the landscape of any movement in no time.
Hazare's fasts — even the threat of them – as the Time magazine put - indeed worked initially as the strongly worded messages were communicated well. Every time Anna Hazare embarked on a protest fast, the channels used to convey the message to the masses (and the threat to the government) integrated meticulous use of the social media on par with the mainstream media of India. In terms of popularity, the anti-corruption movement inhabited the mainstream mass media and the ‘social avatar’ of the new media equally well.
This anti-corruption movement during its two fast phases is a great example of how to leverage the interactive power of information flow through the use of the social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogs. The Facebook Memology 2011 declared Anna Hazare and Jan Lokpal at the top when it came to the status updates on the social networking site. "This year in India, Anna Hazare and Jan Lokpal bill was the most talked about topic which triggered a wide roar amongst all Indians against corruption. His fast led to a nationwide protests in India," a Facebook release said.