Protests are great. But they aren’t what they once were, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The recent Women’s March on Washington had a half a million person turnout—an estimated 250,000 more than the requested parking permits—which was a stunning sight for sympathizers of the movement. The national campaign started as a Facebook event that spread like wildfire, a situation not unique to the United States; in Guatemala, for example, a freedom-loving grandmother organized the Facebook event that ousted the President and VP in 2015.
But in the 60’s, a protest of this scale would have been much harder to organize—they didn’t share the conveniences of social media and mobile phones—which is why, as the New York Times recently put it, the Women’s March is better equated to Rosa Parks’ refusal to move to the back of the bus. “What used to be an endpoint is now an initial spark,” The Times writes.
Today, a Facebook event with 40 interested users might multiply to 335,000, which shows us that even a protest on the scale of the Women’s March is only the beginning. So here are some effective tools to exercise dissent in today’s fast technological age.
Protesters against the Dakota Access Pipeline used this tool to showcase the militant police force on site in North Dakota. In many ways, Facebook Live was a more reliable resource than the mainstream media’s sparse coverage of the issue amidst the nonstop coverage of last year’s Presidential election. With a simple tap of the finger, a Facebook user is given control of a live, broadcasting device right on their camera phone. Once a person goes “Live,” Facebook alerts anyone on their list who has been subscribed to live notifications; from there anyone can watch, like and/or comment their broadcast. This is particularly useful for making sure your footage gets seen by those outside of your immediate circle.
‘Witness,’ and other organizations that use video as a weapon
Witness is weaponizing the power of video by assisting and guiding activists in filming protests, human rights violations, and unlawful or harmful activities in a way that is safe and effective. They provide on-the-ground training for filming in unpredictable circumstances and capturing footage as evidence in a court of law; and in the grander scheme, they work toward policies that empower and protect digital activists and technologies that will maximize their efficiency, all in collaboration with their partners and fellow advocates.
The fast-and-furious news
With the aid of Apple’s News App, it’s fairly easy to exercise one of our most crucial duties as citizens: reading the news. The News App curates a variety of news articles from different organizations of your choosing: The New York Times, The Economist, etc. With the current state of news flowing at the pace of an angry river, one can easily keep up to date with what’s breaking and current.
News organizations, too, are adapting to the rapid pace of a changing world. Realizing that most people today take to their phones for the news, Google created what is known as Accelerated Mobile Pages —in essence, a way for the news to load faster on a person’s phone.
Contact your reps with one click
Quite accurately, Wired called the recent revelation of Countable, “an app that makes it easy to pester your congress member.” Right off the bat, the app requests the concerned citizen’s zip code so it can identify who his or her representatives are. The app has a simple, clear list of all the bills under review by Congress, and even features those previously on the Countable chopping block that have now reached a decision. It poses each bill as a question to which a user replies “yea” or “nay,” like, “Do sanctuary cities that don’t cooperate with immigration officials need to lose federal funding?”
The app is tailored to the user’s interests and concerns. However, it does try to inform each user of the complexities of each bill by explaining why it might merit a yea or nay vote. Once a user’s vote has been cast, it is transmitted to their representative on Capitol Hill by email, and democracy springs into action.
Crowds of young activists—and new activists, regardless of age—are emerging in large swaths. Whether it was Occupy Wall Street in 2011 or the Tea Party Protests of 2009, or the Women’s March or the March for Life, dissent is most effective today when responsive to a changing world. That is, when it is loud, fast, and connected.