Week 11. Who invited Facebook and Twitter to the Uprising Party?

What’s Fueling The Arab Uprising?

Social networking enabled the rest of the world to sit and watch in real time as the events in Egypt and North Africa went down in early 2011. Not only did it enable global networking but it also enabled those in these specific areas to communicate with each other. It helped to give them the confidence that there were others out there that were on their side and willing to participate. This wasn’t a new thing though, the uprising was progressively building over time and then it suddenly exploded online. Only then was the world informed of what was really going on, specifically from the view of activists and ordinary citizens. It was as if people had only just opened their eyes to the unrest in various countries and the Governments’ hypocrisies. As author Hisham Matar said “Revolutions are a boring thing. They take years. Social change takes a very long time.” (albanyadmin 2012). Complete change won’t happen within a year but with the aid of social media these uprisings have had and will continue to gain a significant power boost from regular citizens and activists in the area and around the world.


“Tweets were sent” Morozov (2011) said. They certainly were, he’s not wrong about that. As you can see for yourself here, in real time or go back in time to view the tweets. The site documents tweets sent out from Egypt with exact locations using geolocation services from smartphones. It’s of interest to note, whether the people themselves tweeting know that the rest of the world have access to their exact location? It is a matter of privacy, do people want their every move tracked? Not me.  

Was social media the cause of these uprisings and protests? In my opinion, no. After some extensive reading about the issue, I believe that the use of social media helped fuel the uprisings but to place blame on Twitter as the cause? Outrageous. Although Malcolm Gladwell takes a similar stance as I, he goes further with it. Saying that “the revolution will not be tweeted.” Indicating that social media is practically useless when it comes to serious activism (Popova 2012). Coming from someone who doesn’t even have a Twitter account or use the platform, I find this quite condescending to the whole ordeal. To completely dismiss the use of social media seems quite left field, where is the evidence to suggest that these platforms were useless? I think those on the ground tweeting  in Egypt would definitely beg to differ. How would they have staged protests if they could not find others to join them? On a lighter note, Malcolm Gladwell has a spectacular head of hair.—>

albanyadmin 2012, The Arab Spring and the impact of social media, accessed 9 Oct, http://www.albanyassociates.com/notebook/2012/03/the-arab-spring-and-the-impact-of-social-media/
Popova, M 2010, ‘Malcolm Gladwell is #Wrong’, Change Observer, 10 June, http://changeobserver.designobserver.com/feature/malcolm-gladwell-is-wrong/19008/
Morozov, E 2011, ‘Facebook and Twitter are just places revolutionaries go’, The Guardian, 7 March, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/mar/07/facebook-twitter-revolutionaries-cyber-utopians

9 responses to “Week 11. Who invited Facebook and Twitter to the Uprising Party?

  1. Oh Lou, I just love ya lol
    Ive read numerous different material on this exact issue and all have been set in stone with their point of view. Either pro twitter revolution or completely against. Both of which i do not agree with and i think you’ve summed at exactly why. Its like a recipe your need a pinch of social network to get the fire going but it definitely is not the main ingredient. i think we place to much emphasis of what twitter does for us and we forget that without the amazing people in the world who fight for what they want and physically go out and get it, twitter would mean nothing. It is just a platform to appreciate what is actually the heart and soul of these social changes … us, humans.

  2. He does have a spectacular head of hair, indeed 🙂
    To give social media credit for the whole revolution is a bit much, I agree with that, but I do believe that it played a big role. It mattered a lot in the way that the rest of the world understood what happened. It was not solely the traditional media who reported on the revolution, it was the protesters themselves, as well as other people who felt strongly about it. Social media, not only Twitter, but YouTube and Facebook helped paint a stripped down and true picture of what was really going on in these regimes.
    I think that a revolution takes more than social media, but I believe that the new technology helped empower the communication. It gave the protesters a voice as well as a platform for response from the rest of the world. Together I think that these factors fueled the pace of the events and influenced the interest of the western world.

  3. You’re right about the idea that protests need people to fuel their movements. It’s obvious that any kind of social media network is entirely useless without people contributing information to it.

    It’s interesting to examine comparisons between political movements in the last few decades and in present times with the addition of rapid and realtime social media platforms. One thing I’d argue is that we’ve got countless numbers of armchair political activists now.

    It’s very easy to read news about something awful happening in a foreign country and taking a few minutes out of your day to rant on Twitter about how wrong it is without contributing anything of substance, though a lot of voices can be a powerful tool in some cases even with nothing else there. However, I wonder if all the inane noise and barely involved activists take credibility away from serious movements that are trying to rally through social media platforms.

    Another concern of mine is that it’s easy for people to mix up goals or go astray from an actual established movement due to differing ideals or miscommunication. Newer and flashier social media plays less of a part than simple text messaging in this example, but think of how quickly things escalated in the case of the Cronulla riots.

    Granted, that movement seemed to be fuelled by motivations of anger and contempt to start out with, but I’d say almost all serious protests are, and a lot of people can get incited by drama quite easily when voices of authority are so easily drowned out and swapped on the internet.

    There are a lot of benefits of organising these things through social media platforms, particularly gathering a rapid userbase extremely quickly. However, their reliability is questionable, and maintaining the true aims of the movement seems to be more difficult to manage than ever.

  4. Your post was very detailed and good to read. I think the medium used was effective to give the citizens that are often under-represented and under-privelleged persons an opportunity to speak out about what is happening. As Matar suggested “Revolutions are a boring thing. They take years. Social change takes a very long time” in which i think a revolution takes more than social media to have a large impact on the country and the world itself. I think the combination of social media, and the inspiration of the citizens allowed the processes in the MIddle East to speed up, to allow other countries to become aware of what is happening. I think this is beneficial to an extent as if we didn’t hear about this, we would never know what is happening; thus, no action would ever occur.

  5. I agree with ‘heien’ in his/her statement that social media did not START the uprising, but it definitely added fuel to the fire. In the same way, online social networking doesn’t have the power to cause immediate and massive change, yet everything we do online these days DOES have consequences and there are people out there who actually do care. Take US president Barrack Obama’s current political scheme that involves extreme online presence through twitter and his personal blog. Now add that idea to the currently popular gay rights argument. Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, etc all promote equal rights for everybody and with the President having access to this information he may make that a priority on his agenda. Now this is just a stab in the dark, but overall I am a cyber utopian and believe that the internet has the power to inform, incite and finally, cause action! p.s.. haha nice comment bout that blokes hair!

  6. The role of social media in the Arab spring was not that it ultimately cause it or has a great responsibility for the events that occurred. Rather it is the fact that it turned the revolution into a conversation, between revolutionaries and their fellow citizens, and between that country and the global community. The revolution was not caused by twitter but twitter allowed it to happen faster and more efficiently.

  7. My only fear in regards to the power of social media is that by everyone being in the same place, sharing the same opinions, feeling, understand and somewhat vicariously living each others lives through each other over the internet…. there could possibly be some implications on culture and perhaps collective intelligence creating one train of thought and ideas that over time has been formed. My fear isnt that this is a bad thing its just I’m not sure whether or not collective intelligence is good or bad.

  8. Social media did play a fundamental role in this, however I don’t think it was the cause. The key function of social media sites are they are solely a platform whereby all content is created by users. And that is what is portrayed in this case. People communicating, using the fast mobility, ease of transmission, and free platforms to transmit information faster!

  9. I think the fact that you are doing the ‘Gong ride is a great thing ans will do more for both raising awareness and actually making a difference for the cause than any Facebook activism ever will. I think people forget the impact that real world presence can make. I guarantee that a few hundred riders will be much more impact full, both in awareness and fundraising, than even 100000 hits of a ‘like’ button.

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