The 1960s were a turbulent time for the United States (and elsewhere). There were many changes afoot on the social mores scene as the Vietnam war controversy led to young people questioning the status quo and of their rigid upbringing in the 1950s. This led to the great Summer of Love in San Francisco which is covered in this fascinating documentary:

Music was a driving force in the social fabric in the 1960s – especially among the younger demographic. Love songs, protest songs, racial harmony songs – all were in vogue and altered the dialogue in the nation at the time. The Beatles were the driver of rock popularity, but they were not protest song producers, more singers about the human condition, love, hate, misunderstandings and just life itself. Protest songs, though were contentious and drove the anti-war sentiment among the youth culture. This was a hit at the time and spoke well about the Vietnam war and helped spark many a protest.

In the 1960s, social thought moved through the existing sources of the time: Newspapers, magazines and television. There were no social networks, colleges had lots of gatherings that helped to disseminate information and press coverage of those events helped. But it moved more slowly than today (and the press had many biases at the time and television in particular was edited to present a certain, more conservative point-of-view – and there were essentially only 4 channels at the time, so balance simply didn’t exist. Today, one can just create a Facebook Fan Page, buy facebook likes and suddenly you have a cause and a following. At the same time, however, someone else will create an entirely different facebook fan page with a completely different point-of-view and get plenty of likes too. This allows for greater number of ways to see an issue, but often it just creates noise, and the result is he who makes the most noise – not the most sense – wins on today’s social media. The 1960s lacked for immediacy in its social communication, but arguments were better thought-out and considered. Music really helped with the dissemination of ideas not just in war, but in social behavior and ideas – especially in race relations:

The teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King and the assassination where all important events of the 1960s all both men died tragic and premature deaths. These events further altered the social landscape and had the affect of bringing more mainstream people into the side of social change. Although the realization of many of these social changes that were the result of actions of many (mostly young) people during the 1960s really didn’t exhibit themselves into the 1970s and beyond.…

Some consider the the sixties a time of great social liberation. These changes were spurred by the events of the time and captured more on still photography than on video (there was no real video taping capabilities at the time, and certainly not compact enough for social use). These images spoke volumes (a picture is worth a thousand words was certainly a common belief then). Most of these events that caused changes globally seemed to have been captured in the United States. Sure, social changes did occur worldwide, but the hub (or at least that which was most covered by the US dominated press and subsequently by historians) was what was happening in the United States. Of course, one of the most seminal events of the time was Woodstock. The 3 day music festival held in upstate New York on Max Yasgur’s farm which certainly shows changes of the calm farm with nothing but pasture:

Woodstock Before Event Peaceful  Farm Setting

And then the social mayhem of all the people stage equipment bands and the completely transformed locale:

Woodstock during the festival

A crazy time, that bonded many of the youth of the time – those that were there and the millions more young people who wished that they had been there.

The bands had a great time and even women singers made social statements by leading the typically male dominated rock music bands of the time:

Grace Slick lead singer of the Jefferson Airplane  at Woodstock

But the time had its tragedies such as the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:

Pointing at the gunman of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

or Robert F. Kennedy, who might have defeated Richard Nixon in the 1968 presidential election and changed the course of social mores in America forever.

Assassination of Robert Kennedy Social Image

These images changed forever the way Americans, and in many ways the world, viewed a lot of the social standards and politics prevalent at the time. As these were often seen in headlines of the newspapers of the time or in high gloss on high circulation magazines, it made an impact. Today’s method of image distribution is quite different. With the advent of digital photography and its evolution to becoming easily added to every mobile phone, images are everywhere. Indeed, websites like Instagram base their entire business model on the dissemination of images by individuals that upload them from their cameras. These are shared with people who are followers and you can even buy followers on Instagram at places like that or even buy real instagram followers which has the weird affect of taking photographs and then sharing the images with your own purchased followers. An odd approach to social sharing.

But in the larger scheme of things, the massive amounts of images available for viewing by billions on the internet truly dilutes the impact of any one photo and makes socially impactful photographs harder to come by. Nonetheless, the new method does provide for immediacy in terms of delivery and prevalence which allows so many things to be captured and share immediately. Twitter allows for instant messages, and now through further development of its application, photos. This means we can see events from throughout the world in almost real time. Sure, these Tweets of an image are initially only seen by one’s followers – and you can buy followers on twitter to enhance the effect – but the word tends to get out fast – and news outlets, of which there are so many more than there were in the sixties, are big users of Twitter and they each tend to pick up the others feeds and pass it along to their followers.

Yes, today is different from the 1960s in terms of distribution of social ideas and the underlying cultural shifts and factions that are occurring. But, lately there seems to be a bubbling onto the surface some of the same issues that many thought were resolved in the sixties.…