The Occupy movement took only two months to become a worldwide phenomenon. And it wasn’t just a movie people watched or a book people read – it was a social act that involved millions of people united for a cause.
The protesters at Zuccotti park were initiated by a Canadian activist group called Adbusters. They started promoting the idea of Occupy Wall Street well before it happened, but the idea sprang up from a Canadian group. It was initiated by an American group, and then it caused a ripple of protests spreading out worldwide, all sharing the same agenda. The Occupy movement spread to thousands of cities in a matter of weeks, and with no centralized leadership, maintained an international presence in all major media for months.
There are many reasons that Occupy was able to grow to that size so quickly, but the main reason was that instead of a traditional organizational structure, the Occupy protesters worked under a decentralized banner. Using online channels, every member of the protest was able to suggest ideas, get involved in the conversation, and help promote the ideals that they Occupy movement became known for.
And because the bulk of the protests support was grown online, each Occupy camp was able to recruit more protesters at an amazing speed. Social injustice and income inequality is an issue that is frustrating to most members of the poorest 99% of Americans. And by having a constantly growing pool of supporters spreading the message of #Occupy to the fans of their blogs or their social media following, the message was able to reach basically everybody almost instantly.
The world is getting smaller. And it’s because the tools we use to communicate are getting easier to use, more powerful, and cheaper, all at the same time. Every single one of us has access to a free Facebook account, a free Twitter account, and dozens of options for free blogs. Google is a democratically assigned algorithm in which anyone who writes anything has the ability to gain an audience, and in many cases, a massive audience, just by posting it online.
And that’s how Occupy was able to grow so fast so quickly. The message wasn’t foreign to most people. But the sudden surge of people discussing the message was.
Even if you were not involved in the Occupy protests yourself, you were aware of them. At the tail end of 2011 while the protests were still growing, you had an opinion on them. The major media outlets were covering the protests as though they were the only thing that mattered in the world and it was happening all over the world.
And the use of the Internet to grow the movement so quickly was also the reason it was able to stay so powerful for so long. Because every member could communicate their wishes to every other member in such a cheap and easy way, there was no need for a traditional organizational structure. There was no leadership to disrupt the movement by leaving or faltering. There was only people sharing a message of social equality and fighting for fair income distribution and less corporate involvement in politics and many other things.