We definitely see a difference in the approach that people who are passionate about a cause are making their presence known and changing the organizational structure of movements. In an article in the New Yorker (link) New Yorker Black Lives Matter is described as “not your grandfather’s civil-rights movement.” There is some basis to state that social media plays a significant role in the leaderful style of recent protests. Since everyone has an equal voice in most social media platforms leadership is collective.
Moreover, governments find it difficult if not impossible to censor or edit real-time applications like Twitter. In Iran, over 200,000 tweets were logged every hour during the June 2009 protests. These ad-hock journalists did not have to account to an editor. Their only sanction was to be truthful.
However, leaderful movements are not something new Washington Post and are not dependent upon social media. The feminist movement in the 60’s and 70’s (pic) was in stark contrast to the hierarchical civil-rights movement with Dr. Martin Luther King and a cadre of other leaders at the top and front. The women gathered in consciousness-raising meetings. These meetings formed a group leadership within a democratic organization.
Even in the corporate world, a similar movement can take place. For example, General Mills featured a commercial depicting an interracial household. There was a considerable amount of racist backlash and an even larger amount of support for the company’s position on inclusion. Soon, other retail companies followed suit and even a popular dating service, E-Harmony,got into the act.
Another way to look at this is the end of US slavery in the 19th century; the underground railroad was built by a loosely connected group of abolitionist sympathizers. In 1998, the Arkansas School Boards Association started a project in which ordinary citizens met in groups throughout the state to discuss educational issues. A statewide consensus on educational priorities was obtained as a result.
There were common threads. A passionate belief in a cause. The topic evokes strong emotional responses, such as outrage related to injustice or inequality. Individuals feel empowered, important, and above all equal. There is an immediate and relevant call to action. These timeless ingredients can be assisted by social media to be sure but can stand on their own.