Million Man March to Cat Videos in Six Clicks
It struck me odd this past weekend how little mainstream coverage there was of the 20 th Anniversary Million Man March that took place in Washington, D.C. There wasn’t roundthe-clock coverage on CNN or MSNBC, nor every news outlet and their parent company quoting Tweet after Tweet regarding the event. But social media was alive. Social media was very much alive.
Between thumb scrolls and double-taps, I read my “Friends’” frustrations about how there was no media coverage of the March. I read how news outlets only cover people of color when there is blood in the streets. I read how, ironically, there was a media “blackout” of the event. I read about Louis Farrakhan and the inaugural March. I read about the Nation of Islam. Through links and other click-bait pieces, I read about Assata Shakur, which led me to Afeni Shakur and the legacy of Tupac Shakur. Then I listened to some Tupac songs. I continued reading and learned more about Afrika Bambaataa – a musical icon, in my eyes – and then onto break dancing and the four pillars of hiphop. Then I followed the digital rabbit down the rabbit hole of YouTube videos. How I got from the Million Man March to “Best News Bloopers” in less than ten clicks is remarkable.
Isn’t it strange how helpless we feel in 2015 as we watch law enforcement officers murder civilians in an embedded 45-second clip on Facebook? How is it that for the first time in history every single American has access to a far-reaching platform with which to share their opinions, yet we use it to talk about how powerless we are? How stupid do we look when we have an open discussion about how our voice means nothing? I scroll and scroll Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Ello, and for the most part all I see is complaining, save for the occasional video anecdote about how a redneck in Alabama saved a squirrel and how he’s the real hero.
I carry polarizing sentiments when it comes to social media. I find it odd when new parents sit around and post pictures of their child all day on the Internet because the time it takes to do that takes away from your parenting. Like everyone, I couldn’t care any less about what someone ate for dinner. I’m also sick of seeing some landscape photo behind a laptop screen captioned with “Office for the day! (smiley face emoji).” Everyone has that one friend that always posts about how beautiful life is and how a mocha-latte-frappa-crappafrothy-brothy-cappucino is “literally giving me all the feels right now.” Everyone has the artist friend who uses social media to share their work. Everyone has the bar hopping friend whose Monday morning photo dumps include a lot of bros pointing at the camera, PBR tall boys in hand. And everyone has that socially conscious friend who tries his or her best to share the real truths about what is going in this country. The unfortunate part?
It’s all mixed in with the useless shit.
That didn’t happen this past weekend as I watched friends from all over the world post about the Million Man March. Whether they were sharing photos, links to photos, or quick memes of peaceful protestors holding signs, they were doing the real work that we used to rely on the media for.
I take note whenever there is a common theme on my thread. I don’t pay any mind to what’s officially “Trending,” because news is like fashion, and by the time something is “trending” it’s already hanging in the dark corner of a closet. I pay attention to common themes, and this past weekend’s theme was Justice.
But even in my curiosity on the topic, I was offered 500 different options as to where I would allow myself to be taken. And I, like so many of my generation and the forthcoming, fell for the bait of alluring ellipses-ending headlines.
It made me think about the things I share on the Internet. It made me think about the photos I post. It made me think about the Tweets I post. It made me think about the impact that my post might have on the rest of the world.
Am I contributing to the problem?
Am I creating a temporary bit of data that will be tracked and thus contribute to the lack of coverage on something positive that could change our country for the better?
I read back through my digital journal – Instagram and Twitter and Facebook – and there is a common theme: Don’t start an argument. This is not an easy one for me because I love arguing, and the Internet is the best place to remain faceless, albeit on an interface called Facebook. But I don’t share my religious views too openly unless I’m in the mood to throw a rock at a hornet’s nest just to hear the buzz. I don’t typically share controversial things, err, things I find controversial, because I reserve those topics of conversation for intellectual people that can engage and challenge me.
It made me think about the energy I expend looking at my phone and other screens bombarding me with content. About how it’s easier to sit in a car and stare at my phone than it is to carry on a conversation with the driver. About how it’s easier to like a status update than it is to get out in the streets and protest.
It made me think about how news was relevant to me when I was a child because I was informed on what I needed to be informed of, lacking ability to pick and choose what reality I wanted to live in depending on my feelings that day.
It also made me think about how no great memory should ever start with “So I was posting on Facebook when…” and that’s when I put my phone down. I picked up my friends and went to make a lasting memory.
But I also didn’t share anything on Facebook about the Million Man March. I will say thank you to those that did, because you produced what I consumed, and without you I might not have even known about this event, much less how large and successful it was. We get pretty selfish with the power the Internet provides us, but I don’t think Tupac meant for everyone to use “All Eyez On Me” as a mantra. !