What we're seeing, before our eyes is digital media's role in fostering social change.
Protestors around the country are using social media to galvanize support to protest the recent deaths of unarmed black men --- and children --- at the hands of police.. In addition to protests in NYC, DC., Berkley and other major cities, prominent professional athletes have taken up the cause by wearing "I can't breathe" shirts, or striking a “hands up, don’t shoot” pose.
Social media has galvanized protesters of all races and cultures who have come to a very scary truth --- if a man can be killed for simply protesting, maybe I can be killed, too. Social media has quickly moved the issue of police conduct to a mainstream issue --- not just an African American one.
And this movement is not so much about Michael Brown as it is Eric Garner. The wide-spread video of his interaction with NYC police shows Garner protesting what he considered to be unfair treatment before he's grabbed by the throat and gasps "I can't breathe" multiple times . And then dies.
His case has galvanized so many because the narrative --- right or wrong --- is so different. Conservative news outlets have painted Michael Brown as criminal who robbed a store, got into a fight with an officer, was shot by an officer, and that's that. That's why a grand jury refused to indict the officer involved.
There is no such narrative with Garner. He was standing on a corner, protesting, and died at the hands of police. The Garner case is also different because a majority of Americans --- and even conservative commentators --- believe the grand jury in this case got it wrong by not indicting the officers involved.
The narrative no longer belongs to just the legacy media. It is shared by those savvy enough --- and those numbers are growing rapidly --- who can use social media to put forth an alternate narrative played out in protests that are becoming more common.
These protest are not the work of malcontents who don't respect the rule of law. They want the law to respect them --- and that message is coming from people of all races and colors scared to death that they could be killed for simply protesting --- and that if you're non-white those chances increase exponentially.
Such protests we're once far more difficult to carry out because it was so much harder to disperse information. No more. Digital media has made it far easier for people or protest what they see as injustice, and demand change --- peacefully.
We’re in the midst of watching the next evolution of social media, from a breaking news tool to a tool for social change. I wonder if we realize it.