Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp were down for more than five hours yesterday and here’s the question I pose to you: If there was no media, none what-so-ever, what leaders would stand out to you? Who would you follow?
We suffer from savior syndrome. Despite the fact that we know no single person holds the power to fix all our ailments we become entranced by those who can communicate the concerns we wish we could address, but feel too small to tackle on our own.
History books are filled with those who embodied the zeitgeist of their time. Those who valiantly stood strong and embodied the movements that appealed to people’s better angels, and also those that exploited people's broken desperation. These textbook giants represent the best and worst of mankind, but that is not the whole story. A movement is not made by one person alone. It is built on the backs of all who participate. Time either tells a story of honor or degradation.
When looking narrowly—then broadly—at the scope of things today, who stands out? Who would persist in a world without media? Who knocks on the doors of hell and confronts the beast, without media? Who carries a torch into the dark places? You might find that the heroes you’re looking for are a little closer to home than expected. You might find that a campaign slogan slathered on the cardboard cutout of America’s new-found hero feels a little less empowering and a little more—well—flimsy.
When reflecting upon this, perhaps your neighbor who serves the homeless every week comes to mind. Or maybe it’s that one friend who helped you get a job after you got laid off last summer because of Covid budget cuts. Perhaps it’s a local teacher, or bank teller, or your district representative that doesn’t know how to use Instagram but always shows up for your community when it counts.
You might find that righteousness doesn’t come packaged in a flurry of assertive Tweets that parrot your inner dialog. Courage can be mustered in a crowd, but fortitude grows from within. Only then will valiant leaders emerge who can appeal to our better angels.