Our Youth and Our Future

The seventh chapter of Media and Social Justice, Lora Taub-Pervizpour and Eirinn Disbrow’s “Detours through Youth-Driven Media: Backseat Drivers Bear Witness to the Ethical Dilemmas of Youth Media,” highlights youth and their interaction with social justice-orientated media usage. They follow a program called the Healthy Youth Peer Education (HYPE) in the Allentown School District in Pennsylvania, which “offers high school-age youth opportunities to engage in social change and public advocacy through leadership development, digital storytelling, the performing arts, and documentary work” (98).

Although I hadn’t heard of HYPE before reading this chapter, this piece really piqued my interest; not only is Allentown only about a half hour away from Kutztown, but last spring I volunteered to help one of the Allentown School District’s middle schools with their school musical, so reading about an environment and students that were somewhat familiar to me really helped put this chapter into context. Also, based on the students that I worked on the musical with, I think that HYPE is something that is a really great program to have been introduced to the community; it’s giving students a way to produce “stories that document sufferings, losses, and traumas based on class, race, gender, ethnicity, and sexuality that they directly experience or witness within their communities” (98).

Taub-Pervizpour and Disbrow’s attention and dedication to the youth of Allentown is extremely important; the youth is the future. We (millennials and those who are younger than us) are given a bad rap, especially when it comes to our social media and cell phone usage. But, much to our critics’ dismay, social media can be used for good!!! It’s a means for social activism and social justice, and the HYPE program highlights that and assists students to harness the power of the media.

I see the engagement of today’s youth all over social media, specifically on Twitter and Facebook, much more now than when I was in middle school or even high school. I see young people voicing educated opinions on touchy subjects, proudly labeling themselves as feminists (something I didn’t even do until I was in college), and voluntarily getting involved in politics. I saw so many students under 18 showing interest in the past election and voluntarily watching debates and educating themselves on many of the issues at hand – and they couldn’t even vote!!

This kind of involvement that I see across social media gives me a lot of hope for the future. I believe that we, as individuals who grew up with technology and have watched it develop, will further harness social media and continue to use them as, as Taub-Pervizpour and Disbrow put it, “powerful tools of change” (97).

 

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Real Fake News

The last chapter of Media and Social Justice, “Media Democracy in Action: Truth Emergency and the Progressive Media Reform Movement,” Mickey Huff and Peter Phillips begin their piece by discussing some of the major news stories of the few years before the publishing of the book. They bring up, among a few others, the death of Michael Jackson, Michael Phelps’ marijuana usage, Jessica Simpson’s and Tyra Banks’ bodies, and (my personal favorite) the Balloon Boy hoax. They seem disturbed, and rightfully so, with what has been and is being “mainstreamed as news” (242).

The story that Huff and Phillips focus on the most is Anna Nicole Smith’s death in 2007, calling it, however tragic, “one of the most egregious examples of an overabused news story” (241). They even liken it to CNN’s coverage of 9/11; the coverage of Smith’s death was one of the “longest uninterrupted ‘news’ broadcasts at CNN since the tragic events of September 11, 2001” (242). I hadn’t even heard of Anna Nicole Smith until her death, and then all of a sudden she and the paternity battle over her daughter were everywhere.

The thing that shocked me the most about their discussion of the news coverage that surrounded Smith’s death is that around the same time, “The US ambassador to Iraq misplaced $12 billion in shrink-wrapped one-hundred-dollar bills that were flown to Baghdad” (242) it was not getting nearly the same amount of media coverage.

What kinds of things are we missing now? All of this “tabloidized, trivialized, and outright useless information” (241) as Phillips and Huff call it, is still going on today, maybe even more so. Much of the media focuses on stories like the misbehaved teenager that appeared on Dr. Phil getting her own reality show. Even when actual newsworthy events happen, like human-rights lawyer Amal Clooney standing up against ISIS at the UN, the media is focused on other things like a woman’s baby bump or what she is wearing while trying to make a real difference in the world.

With our country in the political climate this it is in right now, this sort of arbitrary information is, in my opinion, the kind of “fake news” we need to be worried about. It’s the kind of “fake news” that is distracting us from from the important stories, like those about laws being signed into action or those about human rights being taken away, that are being swept under the rug.

Equal Pay and Protests

Chapter 9 of Media and Social Justice is on one of my favorite topics – feminism. Margaret Gallagher’s “Feminism and Social Justice: Challenging  the Media Rhetoric” begins with the following quote from a magazine interview with a man named Sir Stuart Rose:

Girls [sic] today have never had it so good, right? Apart from the fact that you’ve got more equality than you can ever deal with, the fact of the matter is the you’ve got real democracy and there really are no glass ceilings, despite the fact that some of you moan about it all the time … I mean what else do you want? Women astronauts. Women miners. Women dentists. Women doctors. Women managing directors. What is it you haven’t got?

Before I looked him up, I could just tell from this quote that he was probably an upper-class, middle-aged white man. And look! I was right!

Sir Stuart Rose

Photo by: NHS Confederation, “Sir Stuart Rose,” (CC BY 2.0) via flickr

After a quick Google search, I learned that Sir Stuart Rose is the ex-CEO of Marks & Spencer, a large British retailer, and a conservative businessman. While this kind of thought and rhetoric is more often than not found mostly in men like Rose, it has also recently been found in the minds of women.

I know I keep coming back to the Women’s Marches, but so many aspects about the marches and the backlash that followed them have been relevant and are relatable to what we’ve been reading in class. After the marches, I saw many women posting on social media, specifically on Facebook, about how they felt that the rallying wasn’t needed and why they felt that they, as a woman, didn’t need it because they’re being paid enough or have access birth control or were able to vote in our presidential election. They were sharing open letters about why they didn’t march for their daughters and why these kinds of issues are the least of our concerns. To put it into Rose’s words, they are the women that feel like we have “got more equality than [we] can ever deal with.”

This kind of rhetoric, however, is exactly why we marched. We marched because we still are being paid less than men for the same job. We marched because the glass ceiling does exist. As Gallagher points out, even though there are women astronauts and miners and dentists and doctors and managing directors, women in the UK, as of the book’s 2010 publishing, make up “less than 20 percent of members of parliament,” “earn 17 percent less per hour than men,” and only make up “4 percent of executive directors of the country’s top 100 companies” (132). So no, we’re not going to stop “moaning about it.”

Rose’s quote also made me think about social movements to boycott certain companies for their actions and beliefs. The fact that the ex-CEO of Marks and Spencer perpetuates sexism and clearly has beliefs that are so different than mine would make me not want to give my business to that company. However, Marks and Spencer is a huge retailer in England. You’re pretty much never more than a 5 minute walk away from an M&S in London; it’s hard to avoid.

Recently, there has been a lot of backlash against Uber for some of their actions. The hashtag #deleteuber, from what I saw, at least, started the day that Trump signed his first Muslim ban when mass protests erupted at airports across the country. As CNN explains in this article, while “the New York City Taxi Worker’s Alliance called for a complete stop to pickups from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at JFK airport” where visa-holders were being detained and many people were protesting, “Uber said that it was suspending surge pricing from JFK – effectively lowering the cost of a ride,” essentially “crossing the picket line.” The hashtag quickly spread across all forms of social media.

Sometime within the next day, Lyft, Uber’s top competition, sent out an email that included this:

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Photo by: Sara Nicotra

I used both Lyft and Uber pretty regularly when I was going to school in Long Beach, California, whether it was for a ride to the airport or for a ride to In-N-Out. I liked Uber SO much better. After transferring to Kutztown, I would talk about how much I loved and missed Uber, sometimes so much that I thought that they should be paying me. I feel guilty for liking Uber better than a company that does the same thing that has pledged to donate $1,000,000 to the ACLU.

I don’t use Uber at all in rural Pennsylvania, but I still could not bring myself to delete the app despite the implied racism, sexism, and Trump-supporting of the company. And to be honest, I’m ashamed of it. It’s all around me (well, maybe not in the middle of Pennsylvania) and it’s just so convenient. It would be hard to get around in some cities as a tourist or a citizen without Uber, just like it would be hard to stop shopping at Marks and Spencer in England. I wish it weren’t true, but it’s way too easy to sacrifice your beliefs for convenience in a capitalist society; it’s so easy to look the other way.

Social Media and its Movements

 

The next book that we’ve started to read in class is called Media and Social Justice and is a collection of articles by a variety of different writers. The introduction, “Media, Democracy, Human Rights, and Social Justice” by  Sue Curry Jansen, one of the editors, recounts  some of the history of the ways that the media has become a means to advocate for social justice, some of which is strikingly similar to the journalistic history discussed in the beginnings of Barlow’s Rise of the Blogosphere.

One of the ideas that Jansen highlights is the fact that different forms of social media “have played crucial roles in organizing social justice movements and rallying mass support for social change” (6). If you’ve read any of my previous posts, I’m sure this sounds pretty familiar and somewhat repetitive, but I think the fact that this idea keeps showing up is a testament to just how true it is. If it weren’t for Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and the Internet as a whole, social movements like Black Lives Matter and the organization of marches and protests would not exist, at least would not exist as they are today.

Furthering this point, Jansen also says that “Without a free, open, diverse, and robust media, democratic social change is virtually impossible” (7), and she is right. This quote made me think about not only the importance of said media, but also of those that are currently trying to limit it. Whether or not our president is even self-aware enough to consciously try to take down the media for this reason is another story altogether, but the fact of the matter is that he is trying to pit the American people against the media. He, kind of ironically, takes to social media to express his so eloquently-worded opinions:

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When a person that has as much power as he does calls the media, who, by the way, has a constitutional right to share information, the “enemy of the American people,” many people will believe them, thus helping to stop the “social change” that Trump so badly wants to avoid from happening.

We Found It In the People

Sarah Jaffe’s Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt is a book in which recent (and I mean really recent) political and social movements and events are recounted and analyzed through her unique journalistic eye – she embeds herself in the movements that she writes about. While the movements that she includes are recent, such as Occupy Wall Street and the Wisconsin Protests of 2011, they are not as recent as the movements that were sparked by the outcome of the last presidential election.

I am, of course, referring to the Women’s March on Washington and the over 600 (!!!!) sister marches that took place all over the world on January 21, 2017. The way that the Women’s Marches began is extremely similar to how many of the movements that Jaffe writes about started.

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Photo by: Kimika Ying, “Women’s March on Washington,” (CC BY 2.0) via flickr

As I wrote about briefly in my first post, Chapter One of Necessary Trouble, called “Banks Got Bailed Out, We Got Sold Out,” highlights some of the earlier movements that Jaffe talks about, ones that I have less of a memory and understanding of. She recounts the rise of the Tea Party during the beginning of Obama’s presidency. They were angry about the state of the American economy. Interestingly, the rise in awareness for the need of a women’s movement began almost immediately after Donald Trump won the election. Like the Tea Partiers were angry, we were, and still are, angry about many things that have happened after the election and subsequent inauguration of a new president.

Jaffe says how at the beginning of the Tea Party movement, “loose networks formed around Twitter hashtags” (23). This is not uncommon among social and political movements during an era in which technology and social media play such a large part. One of the most notable hashtag histories in recent movements is that of Black Lives Matter.

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Photo by: Gerry Lauzon, “Black Lives Matter,” (CC BY 2.0) via flickr

Alicia Garza, one of the co-founders of the movement, came and spoke on my campus last semester and it was WONDERFUL. She said that the defining hashtag of the movement stemmed from a Facebook post that she posted after the acquittal of George Zimmerman. What started out as a “loose network” would transform into a monumental movement of which the hashtag would play an integral role.

Though there were (and still are) several hashtags associated with the Women’s March, most of what I saw from the beginnings of it was on Facebook. It seemed to me that many of the sister marches were organized through Facebook events that people would show interest in or RSVP to; I RSVP’ed to the Women’s March on Philadelphia Facebook event. I felt like I saw so many friends on my timeline RSVPing or showing interest in different marches around the country – friends near New York City, friends near Los Angeles, friends near Trenton, friends near Chicago, you get the idea.

As the Marches drew nearer, I noticed several hashtags being used: #WomensMarch (simple but effective), #WhyIMarch, and #IMarchFor, just to name a few. The last two were started to give marchers a way for them to share the various reason as to why they decided to marching, or, if they could not attend the march, why they were in support of it. The hashtags, as you can see by clicking on each, are still active today (which might have something to do with the fact that it is, as I write this section of my post, International Women’s Day). They’ve been a way for supporters of the movement to voice opinions, concerns, and thoughts.

A movement that I write about in my second post also utilized a hashtag during its organization and protests. The Wisconsin protests of 2011 the Jaffe writes about in Chapter Four, “Challenging the Austeritarians,” used the hashtag #wiunion and it is still somewhat active some six years later. Just as protesters are now, the protesters of the

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Photo by: Fibonacci Blue, Minnesota rally in solidarity with Wisconsin union protesters, (CC BY 2.0) via Google Images

Wisconsin protests utilized Twitter and other social media platforms like YouTube and Facebook. I think this is especially important when, unlike the Women’s Marches was, a movement is contained to a specific, somewhat small area. By sharing posts and videos of protests on Facebook or Tweeting hashtags, the citizens of Wisconsin were able to get the word out about the injustice they were facing. People across the country stood in solidarity with them, like the people in the picture above, who were protesting in Minnesota.

Social media has, like I’ve mentioned before, become such a big part of social movements, especially ones as large and monumental as the Women’s March. There is a Facebook page, a Twitter, and even an Instagram!! The continuation of these platforms after the actual event, like the hashtags, is a way for the network to stay connected, educated, and to become even larger than before. There have been actions organized, like today’s A Day Without a Woman, to stand in solidarity with other marginalized groups and to fight against the hateful rhetoric the current administration is continuing to promote.

When Jaffe is discussing the protests in Wisconsin, she recounts the experience of a protester named Jenni Dye, the daughter of a teacher. Jaffe quotes Dye remembering a protest sign: “He had this big bushy Wisconsin beard and a winter hat on and his jacket was green and his sign said, ‘All the faith that I have lost in the government I have found in the people'” (102).

That single quote is the one line in Jaffe’s book that has resonated with me the most. It rings true for me and I would say that it rings true for many others, as well. In the aftermath of the election that caused so many people to lose faith in our government, the way that so many people have come together to fight and to support and to stand in solidarity with each other is absolutely incredible. Actually, “incredible” isn’t even a word that does it justice. The atmosphere and energy of the March in Philly was a testament to this statement; so many people of all genders and races and colors that had so obviously lost faith in the government seemed to find it again in those that they were marching beside.

Though no signs that I saw resonated with me quite like the one Dye describes, they were awesome. I’ve included my own pictures of some of the best ones that I saw in a slideshow  over to the right side of my blog, but one of my absolute favorite signs was the one that I’ve included below, a play on the Radiohead album title Hail to the Thief:

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Photo by: Sara Nicotra

More Necessary Trouble

The final section of Jaffe’s Necessary Trouble focuses on events that have happened much more recently, ones that I can (mostly) really remember details of. Specifically, towards the end of Chapter Seven, called “Red Scares and Radical Imagination,” Jaffe writes about one of America’s favorite grandpas: Bernie Sanders.

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Photo by: Adrienne Campbell, “IMG_0844,” (CC BY 2.0) via flickr

Just look at that grin!!

I did know that Bernie was popular among many people my age, but I was surprised to read about just how popular he was, even among older young people. Jaffe states that “by mid-March 2016, more voters under the age of thirty had chosen Sanders than both Clinton and Republican front-runner Donald Trump combined” (211). Despite the stereotype of Bernie supports as being entitled millennials that just want free college, those that aren’t considered millennials and are most likely out of college were feeling the Bern as well. From what I saw, Bernie and his presence in the election encouraged young people, “some even too young to vote in the 2016 election” (211), to become politically engaged, which I think sets the stage for political and social movements to come.

As Jaffe puts it in her book, Bernie “entered the Democratic primary calling for a ‘political revolution'” (210). Even though Bernie lost the primaries, I do believe that his campaign helped spark somewhat of a political revolution. In the aftermath of his loss, we are seeing many people speak up and are seeing movements that are making history. Obviously this cannot attributed only to the running of Bernie for president, but I think it does have something to do with how many young people are deciding to get involved with movements like the Women’s March, voicing their educated opinions on social media, and starting conversations about topics and issues that they are passionate about.

Jaffe quotes Brett Banditelli, an organizer of People for Bernie: “We wanted to inspire people not to support Bernie Sanders, but to use his platform as a way to support themselves. It had less to do with electoral politics and more to do with community organizing” (211). I think that’s exactly what we needed, especially considering the outcome of the election; communities are organizing like never before.

What Was Up in Wisconsin?

Up until a few months ago I had absolutely no idea that the Wisconsin protests of 2011 even happened. I was 15 and I wasn’t very active on social media yet; I guess I also didn’t really know about or understand social movements, especially those that were going on miles and miles away from where I live. This protest was huge, and yet I didn’t hear about it until years after it happened. I mean, look how many people showed up at the state Capitol building:

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Photo by: Ryan O’Hara, “Protest,” (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) via flickr

The first I heard about the Wisconsin protests was last semester in a class with the same professor that I am taking this class, Activists Writing Media, with. We read a little bit about it, but I didn’t completely understand it, or how the people of Wisconsin felt about it, until reading Jaffe’s book. Chapter Four, called “Challenging the Austeritarians,” discusses just that.

Most recent social movements rely heavily on social media, either to help start up or to spread the word and connect people from all over. Social media took a large part in the starting of Black Lives Matter and the planning and set up of the Women’s Marches that took place on January 21st, 2017. Upon researching the implications that social media had on the Wisconsin protests, I found that, even though hadn’t seen it on any social media, people were using different platforms, specifically Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, to their advantage.

Facebook was used largely to plan the protests and there were many groups for people to join to show their support. It was also used to help circulate pictures and videos from the protests. Likewise, in a world before live streaming was as prevalent as it is today, protesters turned to YouTube to share videos of the protests. Like, Black Lives Matter, this movement had its own hashtag, too: #wiunion. The hashtag is still somewhat active now, six years later. It seems as though most people involved with social media during the protests were the protesters, but I did find that others turned to social media to show both support and criticism towards the unions and the protesters.

Necessary Trouble

So we just started reading the second book for our class: Sarah Jaffe’s Necessary Trouble: Americans In Revolt. I just want to start off by saying that Sarah Jaffe seems like a super cool (and smart as hell!!) woman that I would want to eat dinner or get coffee with.

In this book, Jaffe gets political and recounts recent social movements. Like, really recent. The book was published in 2016, so I can actually remember some of the movements that she’s brought up so far. The first big thing I noted about the book, however, I noticed before I even cracked it open. The cover of her book is a bright school bus yellow accented with some hot pink text and a hot pink map outline of the United States. The cover design and her choice of color is so obnoxious in the absolute best way possible.

necessary-trouble

Photo by: Sara Nicotra

As you may be able to tell  by the design of this blog, pink is my favorite color. It always has been and it probably always will be. However, pink is not a color that is often, or ever, associated with political discourse (it’s usually red or blue), or, I would argue, even intelligence. Maybe it’s because it’s a traditionally feminine and girly color, but the color pink, I think, is not taken seriously. I LOVE Jaffe’s use of the bright, obnoxious, hot pink on the cover and also love how she carries it and her in-your-face personae through the book’s website and her Twitter.

I was hesitant to make part of my blog pink, a color that I like and think reflects who I am, because I didn’t want it to take away from any credibility that I might have. But hey, if Jaffe can do it for her politically charged book then I can do it for my blog.

As far as the actual content of the book goes, I’m finding it extremely interesting and I love her style of writing. She frames the events as a narrative that makes it easy to read and it makes me want to read what she has to say.

The first chapter, called “Banks Got Bailed Out, We Got Sold Out,” Jaffe writes about the rise of the Tea Party, which, to be completely honest, I knew almost nothing about even though I knew what it was. In her description of the early days of the movement, I noticed some similarities between the Tea Party and other recent movements, specifically Black Lives Matter. Jaffe explains how “loose networks formed around Twitter hashtags” (23). That is literally how BLM got started – with a Twitter hashtag. Well, technically it was a Facebook hashtag first, but still.

She also says that “the Tea Party wore their anger on their sleeve. Often, it was directed at the newly elected president, but it was also often aimed at local representatives who were not seen as being responsive enough” (25). Individuals that are involved in BLM are angry as hell and they have not been hiding it. African-Americans continued to be victims of police brutality and violence and no one with power was doing anything about it, they were not “being responsive enough,” and still aren’t.

The Rise of the Blogosphere Intro

Aaron Barlow’s The Rise of the Blogosphere recounts the history and the development of the media and journalism. His book comprehensively highlights the changes that the industry has gone through. I really enjoyed reading the book and going on what seemed like a journey through time. Barlow’s incorporation of the history and rise of journalism and its characteristics in its early days was extremely interesting to read about. It’s incredible how far we have come since then. The most profound part of the book for me was the implications that 9/11 had on the realms of journalism and the media. Barlow describes it as a complete paradigm shift, especially when it came to blogs, the Internet’s role in informing the public, and the kind of information that was available. Barlow’s book left me with a lot of questions, mainly as to where we are going next. We’ve already come pretty far since the publication of the book and now that I’m aware of the changes that have happened, I’ll be paying more attention to the changes that will happen in the future.

In my first response, I pulled out a quote from the introduction about what “good journalism” can do, specifically in regards to what has been presently going on in the media and the new administration. I focus on how journalism, whether it be good or bad, can bring communities together in “times of crisis” on both sides of the political spectrum.

My second post, much like the beginning of Barlow’s book, focuses more on the history of journalism. I relate the coffeehouses of the early days of journalism to blogs, specifically blogs of the time in which they were just gaining momentum. Barlow points out that the coffeehouses gave citizens a way to speak and converse, specifically about politics, and this is very similar to the way many think of blogs.

As I mentioned in the first paragraph of this post, the book has made me think a lot about the future of the media and journalism, specifically about live streaming; this is pretty much what I wrote about in my third post. Barlow brings up how “technological changes” have had an impact on the industry, and it made me wonder what kinds of future changes will occur and what their implications will be.

My fourth response to the book recounts a personal experience in which I almost fell victim to the vastness of the Internet. Barlow reminds us that everything that is put on the Internet is permanent, and I explain how I think that is both a blessing and a curse.

My final response to The Rise of the Blogosphere includes some of what I mentioned earlier in this post. I recount what I remember about 9/11 and what the media was like before that (which isn’t much) and wonder what the event would have been like had we had the technologies available that we do today.

Rise of the Blogosphere – 9/11

I was in kindergarten when 9/11 happened. I’d say that most people my age remember it, or at least some of the immediate aftermath of what happened. Although I didn’t really understand what was going on, I remember most of it very vividly, which might have something to do with the fact that my mother is a flight attendant for American Airlines; she knew of some of the crew working on flights 11 and 77. I remember the tension and the heavy feeling in my house and asking my mom something like, “but the flight attendants didn’t die, right?”

One thing I don’t remember, or didn’t pay attention to at the time, was what was being covered on the news before and after the event happened. Barlow brings this all up in Chapter 13, “9/11 and the Rise of the Blogosphere.” In explaining the gravitation away from watching the news, Barlow states that many had already started turning to the Internet for better coverage (157). He quotes Tom Fenton: “some nights prior to 9/11, the network news shows no foreign news at all” (156). As a young adult in 2017, that’s almost impossible for me to imagine. I don’t watch evening news very often, but when I do there is pretty much always a mention of what is going on in the rest of the world. And with the news quite literally at my fingertips, I often feel like I know about major events that are going on on the other side of the world. 9/11 changed so many aspects about life in America and around the world with regards to things like security and prejudice, but I had never thought about how it changed journalism and the media.

During the aftermath of 9/11 is when Barlow says that he “recognized the incredible power of the Web as a source of information” (158) but it’s impossible for me to imagine the Web in any other way. Reading this part of the book made me wonder what 9/11 would have been like if the world were where it is at now with technology. People would likely have been live streaming from the streets of Manhattan covered in dust and debris. There probably would have been a live stream that caught the collapse of the towers. People would have been live Tweeting and checking in on Facebook to let their friends know that they were safe. It’s all really haunting to think about, honestly.