Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) went viral before the internet. Civil Rights, his message, formed a trending topic before hashtags and starter packs. Through mass media communications he gained followers as he humanized desegregation.
Before Twitter, newspapers and radio broadcasting were main platforms to communicate to mass populations. In Malcolm Gladwell's David and Goliath, Diane McWhorter recalls, "James Bevel, dropped off leaflets at all black high schools around the country: 'come to 16th Street Baptist Church at noon on Thursday. Don't ask permission.' The city's most popular disc jockey sent out a message to his young listeners: 'Kids there's gonna be a party at the park.'"Civil Rights started its march outside the scope of mass media and began trending when it involved youth.
The children skipped school and arrived in hoards at the 16th Street church. Firemen were hesitant. They had been instructed to use firehoses as crowd controlling devices. When they turned the water on the children it sent them sprawling in every direction, the force of the spray tore the marchers' clothes from their backs. The police department used dogs as well as horses. The German Shepherds came snarling, held back by their thin leashes. One lunged at a boy, who did nothing to defend himself. Photojournalists captured the moment of aggression. The photo ran on the front page of every newspaper around the country. This is how the nation knew that civil rights protests were more than just people holding signs in the streets, it was human beings standing up to injustice. The issue was no longer some obscure movement in the deep south, it was a national issue, because of a picture that went viral without Instagram or Facebook.
MLK used the press and media to broaden the audience of his fight for justice. He was successful because his ideas were thought-provoking and sharable. He attracted like-minded people and built a base of followers. He had a dream for his children, and for the future of America. King grew to embody a real-life 'Mockingjay': showing the public what was really happening; how actual human beings were being treated, and why justice is worth fighting for.
Since today's generation is paving the way with digital communication, the thought is that young people are narcissistic. But a USA Today poll showed people born between 1982 and 2000 (the group of young people termed "millennials") are the most civic-minded generation since those born in the 1930's-40s, MLK's generation. One of many books written on millennials, Generation We, says they believe in political engagement, and that government can be a powerful source for good. Students at Hillcrest today are predicted to develop in such a way that they make society great. The world can be changed, possibly faster because of the pace of media today. A strong moral conscience is evident in the upcoming generation; humanity is as important to citizens now as it has ever been. King's example teaches that social media, which is at students' fingertips, being mastered through daily posts in social media, can be used to spread meaningful messages, and promote good over evil.