Blind Followers Or Meaningful Dissenters: Facebook vs Occupy Wall Street?

Whenever a new movement consumes the hearts and minds of a large percentage of the populace, its time to take stock in what really moves these folks to act? The zeitgeist that emanated from Facebook and Occupy Wall Street couldn't be any more different from each other, yet there is an undercurrent that threads the two together. Both attract those that have an overwhelming desire to band together within loosely-knit organizations that welcome all.

With Facebook about to reach its next milestone of one billion followers internationally and the Occupy Movement catpulting from one location (NYC's Zuccotti Park) to every major metropolis in the world, netizens and citizens collectively appear to be drawn to large tents that are inclusive, where they can share a common bond.

But are these folks simply blind followers or meaningful dissenters? My contention is that they are both. That is to say, many young and old are now part of Facebook's rank and file, because they didn't want to be left behind, out of the loop of one of the largest international congregations of people, second in population to only India and China. The Occupy movement is a melting-pot blend of today's disheartened youth, and 60's protesters who see a replay of what they experienced so many decades ago.

On the other hand, those that truly feel disenfranchised use Facebook as a digital soapbox to voice protest against despotic leaders - witness those in Egypt and throughout the Middle East that became part of last year's Arab Spring. The same can be said for the Occupiers, who fight against what they perceive as 'injustice, ''inequality' and 'corporate greed.'

Oddly enough, supporting this thesis is the similar 'cover art' of a music album and a graphic novel dedicated to each movement.

The "Occupy This Album," has been garnering a lot attention with music luminaries such as Willie Nelson, Debbie Harry and Yoko Ono behind the production. While chants and the much-derided Zuccotti drummers have been an integral part of the Occupy movement since its inception, the album will not only feature established artists but also undiscovered street troubadours who have been on the front lines of the protests. The album's cover art depicts the multitude of protesters that are in lock-step chasing the infamous Wall Street bull who is depicted as stealing from the Main Street's coffers.

"Facebucks & Dumb F*cks" is currently the only graphic novel written about Facebook's meteoric rise and its over-riding goal to become the 'supreme leader' of the Internet. It's cover art actually proceeded the "Occupy This Album" when it first appeared in January, 2011 at Apple's iBook store online. Here you have Mark Zuckerberg personified as a modern-day Pied Piper leading his blind "mice" followers he foolishly labeled "dumb f*cks" back in the days when he incubated "the facebook" in a Harvard dorm room.  Which begs the question: If the founder of the world's leading social network sees his followers as simply robots, or moths drawn to a flame, is he really interested in satisfying a need or is he only focused on amassing a global advertising platform comparable to Google's, its major competitor?

When someone follows blindly, there is often skepticism as to how much thought motivates their actions. In a post, I wrote in 2009, titled, "Does Social Media Produce Groupthink," I noted that once an innovation on the Web catches hold, there's often a "lock-in mechanism" that freezes out radical changes to that innovation producing a "groupthink" or a herd mentality. This is decried in analytical detail in Irving L. Janis's authoritative book on the subject, titled, "Victims of Groupthink."

Social networks may be stifling because mass opinion-sharing can encourage groupthink. "An overabundance of connections over which information can travel too cheaply can reduce diversity, and keep radical ideas from taking hold," writes network expert Viktor Mayer-Schönberger.

Songwriter Steve Baker (aka bwaySteve) in his recent protest song, "99 Percenter" notes how the digital world of social media is instrumental in reaching dissenters in the real world. Recently interviewed by CBS News, he combines the angst of the past with the present in a unique perspective, as seen through the lens of a 60s protester.

I was a 99 Percenter then,
I'm a 99 Percenter now!
I'm a 99 Percenter,

A Meaningful Dissenter
Uniting Hearts and Minds,
with our Social Networking
People 'round the world,
Still fighting to be free
Made a 99 Percenter out of me.

So, what are your thoughts readers? Does Facebook and the Occupy Wall Street movements attract those that challenge the status quo or those that simply like to follow? Or is it a combination of both - making it feasible that "change agents" and "groupthinkers" can swim in the same waters?

Jan 29, 2012
by Anonymous

To almost everyone, facebook

To almost everyone, facebook is just a handy way to communicate with your friends, read the news and hear about events. The people who attend protests will always have varying levels of conviction, OCW is no worse or better, and if a couple people are there just to see what its like or because their friends are there it does not cheapen the message of the movement anymore than it has for any movement.

Jan 29, 2012
by Anonymous

Fundamental flaw in your reasoning...

Less than 1% is a large percentage of the populace? Because that's how big OWS is. By even the most generous estimates, it tops out at 3 million members, or 1% of the United States.

It doesn't serve the "public interest" any more than the top 1% does. Any tiny minority that claims to be "bettering the nation" is only looking out for itself. The other 98% shouldn't have to deal with this.

Jan 30, 2012
by Ron Callari

Fundamental flaw in your reasoning???

My rationale is based on the 99%, not the 1%. The OWS is not 3 million? It's a international movement and now ranges in the hundreds of millions worldwide. How is that a small number of people?

Feb 3, 2012
by Myra Per-Lee

Good article, Ron

Hi Ron... Enjoyed your Blind Followers article; you made some good points. I am hoping there is something more to the Occupy movement; if so, they just might have an impact on the elections... 

Myra Per-Lee
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