The “New School” Obama Community

Last Tuesday’s historic election of Barack Obama as the next president of the United States and his phenomenal use of the web and text messaging should silence once and for all the stubborn nay-sayers who have continued to dismiss the power of technology to communicate and build support.

According to news reports, AT&T had the single largest spike in text messaging in the company’s history—44% higher than the average of the five previous days and higher than traditional spikes such as Valentine’s Day, Christmas and New Year’s Eve—in the moments following the announcement of the election outcome. Of course, traditional media also surged to record highs in the hours after the election results were announced. Yet, the tremendous surge in text messaging signals something very significant that validates it as a leading communications strategy that can no longer be marginalized.

Watching live television and web-based live video feeds as America celebrated this historic election felt like you witnessing a spontaneous, virtual New Year’s celebration that you could join while it was unfolding. You could watch people texting one another, sending photos and videos all while they and you celebrated in person. And if you were one of the tens of thousands of Obama supporters on his campaign email list, you received a thank you email note from him within minutes of the announcement of his victory. Talk about a way to make people feel good and like they were part of history in the making.

In my many years writing about and encouraging support from and for the Jewish community, I have often struggled to communicate what “community” is and why it matters. Last Tuesday, I saw, I read, I texted with a community that is both “old” and “new school.” It is “old school” in how it brings together people around a shared set of experiences, values and interests. It is “new school” in its size, powerful reach, immediacy and undeniable energy. Whatever way you look at (and this blog is not political) it we witnessed a powerful expression of community in action—online and in person—all blended together to create a moment we are likely to carry with us for some time.

I hope we are all taking note and that Jewish organizational leaders are taking their young, savvy text messaging staffers out to lunch this week to learn a few things.