- Sun, January 30 2011
- Filed under: Social Media
This is a matter of hot debate. On one hand, there is outrageous hype suggesting social media is fomenting revolutions. On the other hand, there are people saying it has zero value in organizing. Neither of these is true. For some thoughtful reflections, check out:
To be honest, so much of the rhetoric around the use of social media in Egypt and Tunisia makes me want to scream — folks act like these American tools just dropped from the sky like humanitarian food rations, set to save the people from their (American-supported, natch) dictators. As Sami Ben Gharbia so eloquently noted on Al Jazeera’s Riz Khan program last week, these networks have existed for a long time. Are they enhanced by social media? Of course, and I’m sure Sami would agree. But when did we go from referring to social media as a tool to calling it the catalyst of a revolution?
I will leave this with a final thought cribbed from Ethan Zuckerman, who wrote last week: “Tunisians took to the streets due to decades of frustration, not in reaction to a WikiLeaks cable, a denial-of-service attack, or a Facebook update.”
Geoff Livingston’s reflections today, “Revolutions: Don’t Shoot the Messenger.” He notes:
...Social media is just a communications tool set, and perhaps not even the most powerful one at play… The best testimony about social media’s role in these events has to be the efforts of the Tunisian and Egyptian governments to thwart or completely cut off the Internet…Perhaps the most sane analysis of the debate about social media’s role came from Jeremy Littau: “So of course social media caused the uprising in Egypt, and of course it didn’t. It truly is both and to try and pin it on one type of public is too simplistic. It’s never one thing.” Indeed, there are many, many factors at play in the Egyptian protest, most importantly the willingness of individuals to publicly stand against oppression.