Imagine that you were just leaving work after a long, tiresome day. You board the city bus that you ride every day and you take a seat in the first row of the section labeled “colored passengers”. African Americans were assigned to sit in the back of the bus while whites sat in the front. The bus starts to fill with white passengers so the bus driver stops the bus and moves the sign that separates the races from one another and asks four black passengers, including Rosa Parks to give up their seats to the white passengers that were boarding. Three out of the four black passengers got up but Rosa Parks refused. Long story short, Rosa Parks was arrested for defying Montgomery’s city ordinance because she would not give her assigned seat to a white passenger. Shortly after Parks was arrested, she was bailed out and she had the support of other prominent figures so a bus boycott was the next move. She had strong and weak ties to make this movement successful. Charles Duhigg, author of “From Civil Rights to Megachurches”, defines strong ties as one’s closest friends and family and weak ties as acquaintances and people one is not too close with. Both strong and weak ties are vital when creating a large scale movement; without them, it is nearly impossible to sustain support for any particular cause.
Current campaigns and movements have been successful in creating changes for their cause because of people like Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks. “Rosa Parks, unlike other people who had been jailed for violating the bus segregation law, was deeply respected and embedded within her community.” (Duhigg 88). Rosa parks connected with many different people on a daily basis. She was a very prominent figure in her area so she had what Duhigg would call both strong and weak ties to fall back on. The movement only worked because Rosa Parks knew someone who knew someone that could help her movement succeed. The protest was not suspected to be as successful and last as long as it did. The only reason was is because Rosa Parks had close friends, acquaintances, and strangers who chimed in for the greater good.
During Parks’ time, social media was nonexistent and uninvented. In today’s world, social media is used as a tool to broadcast new ideas and raise awareness for certain movements. In regards to social media, it is still necessary to have strong and weak ties in order to promote a cause because if you don’t know anyone, how can you have a backbone for support? Social media was not around during Rosa Parks’ time but she knew the right people that could help her with the protest. “The first mass movement of the modern civil rights era could have been by any number of earlier arrests. But it began with Rosa Parks because she had a large, diverse, and connected set of friends – who, when she was arrested, reacted as friends naturally respond, by following the social habits of friendship and agreeing to show their support.” (90). Rosa Parks’ incident was not the first racially unjust arrest in Montgomery, those other people just didn’t have enough support to challenge the state, and on the other hand, Rosa Parks did. People who didn’t even know Parks’ personally became aware of the movement and suddenly the protest became a cult throughout Montgomery.
Parks didn’t have social media to advertise her movement but she incorporated both strong and weak ties into her movement by handing out flyers within the community and using organizations that she was involved in to talk about the upcoming protest. “When the article was written, only Park’s friends, the ministers, and the boycott organizers had publicly committed to the protest-but once the city’s black residents read the newspaper, they assumed, like white readers, that everyone else was already on board.” (95). Like Duhigg said, when the movement was first developed, only friends and people she saw often were committed to the protest which was where her strong tie support came from. When her strong ties handed out flyers to make publicize the protest and gain awareness for weak ties to see them and participate in the boycott.
Another successful movement that utilizes both strong and weak ties very well is the Black Lives Matter campaign (BLM). Black Lives Matter utilizes social media as an advantage to make changes in the world and makes a huge effort to reach as many people as they can to incorporate weak ties. When BLM was first built, black community activists got together as strong ties to develop a plan to attack the problem. Activists who support this movement share their beliefs and ideas through social media. Black Lives Matter uses Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr , and Instagram as a platform to reach the weak ties that really hold the campaign together. Like every movement, peer pressure is used as a tool to get everyone on board to make a change. Now let’s go back to Rosa Parks’ situation, very few people were seen riding the buses, not because they were completely empathetic for what Parks endured but they knew the whole community was rallied behind her and that it would like really bad if they were seen at a bus stop. “The community’s weak ties were drawing everyone together. At that point, you were either with the boycott or against it.” (95). Like Parks’ movement, BLM is a campaign that you are either with or against. A lot of people are supporters of the movement because it goes for forming a better place for all people. People that may have had no idea about the movement before they were scrolling on their twitter feed can be drawn to support the cause just because they think it’s what everyone else is doing.
All in all, strong and weak ties need to work together while developing any movement that one would like to call successful. Initially, strong ties are important because they are the people who are closest to you and will support you through roughly anything. Weak ties are critical because they can turn into stronger ones when people seek to end something or advance a common cause. Without the incorporation of strong and weak ties, you have no movement because you will not attract enough people to market the campaign. Rosa Parks’ protest and Black Lives Matter are two movements who used both methods of social ties in an effective manner. In order to make any kind of change to a society, everyone must be involved whether are considered a strong tie or a weak tie. Both are essential to making a movement work.