“How Luther went viral”
Summary: The article, from The Economist, uses the story of Martin Luther and the 95 Theses to show social media was as apparent in the 16th century as it is today, but just in a different form. The article suggests that the success of social movements and uprisings are in correlation with the popularity and availability of information on the issue. To create momentum for further action, there must be an “informational cascade.” The article concludes with a final point stating, “Social media are not unprecedented: rather, they are the continuation of a long tradition.”
· We live in an age dominated by social media where a large amount of the news we consume is received through Facebook or Twitter. Do you think it’s unhealthy for the public to rely on these outlets as their source for news? Or is there no difference?
· How credible do you consider social media to be for consuming news?
· The article talks about an “informational cascade” being needed in order to create momentum for action on issues, such as with the Arab spring in 2011. Can you think of any real life examples where movements or opinions were aided by social media and went ‘viral?’ Have you ever used social media to promote a cause?
· Part of how this ‘cascade’ is created is through the republication of the information provided. Martin Luther’s 95 Theses were continually reprinted and eventually spread through all of Christendom. In our age, these reprints of information come in the form of likes, shares, and retweets. As a social media user, what are the sort of things you retweet or share? Inspiring stories? Funny videos? Cool pictures? Or do they actually happen to be news-related subjects?
· Miley Cyrus’ performance at the VMA’s spread like wild-fire, but the majority of people our age have no idea what Benghazi is. Do you think social media can be somewhat at fault for this? Or do you think social media is a good thing because you can say, “At least we’re being exposed to current events and news.”
· The spread of Martin Luther’s name and his message eventually transcended print and was put into songs and images. When certain ideas or messages are made into songs or put to music, does this help you understand? Or does it make it annoying and out of touch? Before you answer, take for example the rap song “Same Love” by Macklemore which makes a case for free love and equality. Some people praised the song for raising awareness while others made fun of the lyrics and grew tired of it because it was overplayed.
Conclusion: Social media plays a critical role in the success of ideas and social movements. Even in the 16th century, with Martin Luther, this was apparent. Moving forward, it’s an important that we are aware of the influence that social media can have on us and are cautious with the information we consume from it.