A topic that needs no introduction: Occupy Wall Street. Better known (at least on Twitter) as #occupywallstreet. We’ve been submerged in the hype for over a month now, with ‘occupies’ breaking out in major cities around the globe.
Speaking philosophically, what can we deduce or learn from this movement? Here are three specific questions off the top of my head:
- Are we the sum of our virtual identities? – The move to social media and web-based business has not squelched our desire to be connected in ‘flesh and blood’ situations. In fact, it more than likely fuels this desire. The Arab protests in the Middle East should tell us that this desire for human camaraderie is even cross-cultural.
- Is the power of a movement only accurately measured in the physical realm? – What if, hypothetically, the Occupy Wall Street breakout only occurred within the confines of social media? Not one person took to the streets (or parks). Not one tent was erected (or taken away). Not one piece of trash or human waste ‘occupied’ the ground.
- Where does free speech and taking a stand violate law? – Tents being confiscated by police, forcing people out to clean up parks, keeping blocked traffic at bay—these are enforcements in the physical domain. What, if anything, needs to be enforced in the virtual? Are certain #hashtag trends on Twitter a violation of cyber territory? Specific social media users being targeted by the masses in disrespectful ways. Where should it stop?
Our Internet connectivity has certainly streamlined physical movements such as ‘Occupy.’ Could these protests signal our innate collectivity to promote what is ‘right?’ And, the social media platforms minus human-to-human interaction are not enough?
Social networking may be the craze, but it’s not the end all, right? Will we ever reach a point where there is an equalized boundary between the virtual and the physical realms? Are groups of friends standing around before a blockbuster movie interacting on their smart phones, and engaging some with each other—is this the way we’ll exist indefinitely? Where do we (or should we) draw the boundary? Will protests keep us in check? Or will they fuel our online collaboration?
The cleaning up of physical debris is thankfully not a problem for social media users, but certain ‘garbage’ does exist. Whether you want to consider that spam, infringing marketing campaigns, or crude language (or images); that is an entirely different matter. Or is it?
These questions are not easily answered and I would imagine they will continue to be visited as we figure out how social media fits into our lives and visa versa. So, how are you discussing the events surrounding Occupy Wall Street? Are you focusing on the problems it’s creating for local police and authorities, the hope of new-found freedom for the middle class, or that we are in the center of a virtual and physical growth spurt?