Trayvon Martin, Social Media and Inactive Activism

The verdict flashed across my iPad. I winced and checked my Facebook knowing what it would look like. My timeline was filled with comments ranging from sadness to near terroristic threats with a sprinkling of pro Zimmerman sentiment. My Twitter feed was much the same. Between the two platforms over three thousand people on my streams gave the temperature of the nation following the verdict, a virtual heat map that ran across age, race, sex, political lines, and religion. The common thread amongst it all is the power of one hundred and forty characters to render the populace politically inactive.

With the exception of an exceptional few who organized protests, got petitions signed and in other ways took actionable steps to display the myriad of emotion towards the verdict, we as a national collective sat in front of our array of glowing screens and either commiserated or debated with a faceless sea of equally apathetic people eager to don their legal and political hats and become arm chair pundits.

The Internet in the hands of our generation has proven to be the equivalent of handing Excalibur to a mere child. The power of the greatest technology this world has ever seen is being lofted by the hands of a people who know not how to use it wisely. A tool that was meant to make our world more unified has left us all in our own collective orbits bumping into each other, for better or worse.

Imagine a world where Martin Luther King had to navigate their respective movements through the digital age. Would his message be amplified or diluted by a digital ecosystem that has accelerated news cycles with an infinite number of media options? Could he get our collective assets off the couch and into the streets to face the fire hoses, police dogs and beatings that were all so necessary to achieve the victories of the civil rights movement? Are we now in the midst of those who could lead us out of our doldrums except for the deluge of voices posing as leaders and experts?

Our society is not post-racial post-sexual post-gender or post-religious. Those constructs are born of a society looking for a finish line without a race. A society conditioned to a one hundred and forty character solution wrapped in a hoodie like a visual soundbite. The reality is that there will be another Trayvon in the same way that there will be another Newtown, Aurora, and Gabrielle Giffords. There is no preventative measure. There is no panacea for tragedy. What we need to discover is a way to have genuine dialogue instead of us standing on a million soapboxes preaching to the infinite.