Marching with Social Media

I like constructing a story through social media.  I like accounts that take me on a journey in snaps or show me the world in images.  I like 6 word stories and the raw look at the world that comes with 140 characters.  I even enjoy the stories families tell on the big platform. I recently participated in the Women’s March on Washington.  I had the privlage of getting to march in Washington DC with my mother and some amazing women. A lot of amazing women. About half a million amazing women.  Most of the people marching had signs that told their story in a few words. Some expressed love of family, others cried out for equality and a few expressed their exasperation that we are still protesting this.  I had the privilage of being able to document their signs and my own journey to DC.  My intention was to document it on Snapchat and Instagram.  Here’s five things I learned about marching with social media.

1. Storyboard everything and then accept that you wasted an evening doing that

I spent four hours analyzing the route and where I would want to get what shots from what angles. I had everything planned out from the airport to the subway ride to the speeches and the march itself.  None of that happened.  I ended up changing my travel plans at the last minute and was too tired to talk about how excited I was. The subway was packed.  The pictures I posted are mostly of people packed into a train and then shoved together so the doors could close.  Not exactly the image of a hopeful young woman holding a sign that I had planned. The stage area was packed.  By the time I got there I couldn’t even see the speakers and performers much less get a great shot of them inspiring the crowd.  By the time we started marching I had already lost cell reception and all my Snaps and IG stories were loading and posting out of order.  My beautiful storyboard telling the story of women marching together but independently was not going to happen.

2. Realize that a Wireless Network can only take so much

500,000 cell phones all Snapchatting, Instagraming, and Facebook Living, not to mention texting your friends to try and find them and calling your sister to scream that you just FREAKING MET SUPERGIRL! will cause whatever is the amazing technology that sustains our smart phone communications to stop working. When this happens and you don’t post an update to your Snapchat after telling all your family and friends you would, you will have 100s of texts demanding to know if you are dead.

3. Inform your friends and family first

Once you get reception back in that five feet before the bridge, CALL YOUR FAMILY.  I messaged my bestie and she informed Facebook that I was not dead I was just demonstrating.  That did not ease my kids’ or husband’s worries.  My daughter spent about 20 minutes on the phone with me just making sure that I hadn’t provoked any police officers and that no I hadn’t been arrested.  Then I spent another 20 minutes explaining to my sister why I didn’t get arrested, she was a little disappointed by my lack of civil disobedience.

4. Ask before you shoot

I fell in love with all the protest signs.  I wanted to take pictures of all them and spent a lot of time darting into a crowd for a shot, but I am not the press these are all for a personal Instagram and Snapchat. I had decided that I wouldn’t take a picture without first making sure that the person with their face in the picture was okay with that.  I also tried to only shoot kids from behind.  I am super protective of my own kids online and wanted to protect these kids the same way I would mine. Most times I could just stand in front of a crowd hold up my phone and rais my eyebrows and people would nod and pose or start chanting.  This allowed everyone involved in this experience to feel like they are not being used.

Be greatful and accept whatever happens

I didn’t get the story I thought I was going to get but I got something much more amazing.  After my mother and I stopped walking and sat down to watch the other marchers, a new story started to shape in front of me. I saw stories in groups of people marching together. In tired kids who rode out the march on their parents shoulders. Frustrating stories were being told in the subway where disabled people tried to navigate the system without working escalators. Sad stories were being told in abbadoned signs left in trash cans or propped up and left on fences.  Love stories were being told in couples holding hands with each other while they moved with the wave of people marching towards change.

At the end of the day, my mother was seriously injured and my feet hurt.  We had both burned through 5 portable chargers and were very greatful that we had packed snacks. We were dreading the 12 hour bus ride home and we never wanted to go on a subway again.  But if it meant we would get to see more of those stories…we would do it all over again.

Did you march locally? Did I miss you in DC?  Tweet me @theRebeccaH and share your experience.  Tag your favorite sign with #WomensMarchSigns on Instagram or comment below with what it said.

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