Social Media and Social Change: The Egyptian Crisis

2 Feb


Last week’s events in Egypt and Tunisia made everyone talk and tweet about the role of social networking in a socio-political crisis. As a Venezuelan, I am fully aware of the power of social networking when the media and conventional channels of information are distrusted and compromised by the government. But in this particular scenario, are we giving the Internet an omnipotent role in the cause of a grassroots revolution, when really more credit should be given to the courage of Egyptians that mobilized people without the internet? I personally believe that what we have witnessed the past week is that revolution happens from passion and the will of people and it is not a function of any technology.

Last week the Egyptian government took the unprecedented step of shutting down the internet and yet larger and more encompassing protests continue to take place. Of course, I am not saying that social networks did not play a catalytic role in the beginning, because they did. Instantaneous information lines connected Egyptians inside and outside of their country and aided in the massive protests. Activists agree that many of these social networks served as support and life lines so critical that the government felt the need to stop them.

Yesterday the “march of millions” took place without the help of any social networking sites. More than two million protesters gathered in Cairo’s Midan Tahrir’s square. Cutting across entrenched lines of piety, class and ideology they united for a common message: Leave Mubarak. Sarah Topol from Slate Magazine interviewed one of the protesters, who responded “By bringing 2 million people to the square, we sent Mubarak a message. We can bring 2 million. Next week, we’ll bring 6 million. There’s no Internet, no SMS, no Facebook, but we did it anyway. We built this without any tools. … That means people can do whatever they want. That’s the point—and the message.”

Internet is restored now in Egypt. I guess the government understood that the people of Egypt are far more powerful and not dependent on social networking.

This is an interesting video on Egypt’s Internet Revolution. Check it out!

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One Response to “Social Media and Social Change: The Egyptian Crisis”

  1. George February 2, 2011 at 3:55 pm #

    I think the events in Egypt over the last few days show that street protests can mobilize pretty effectively with or without internet social networking. Going forward, it will be interesting to watch the role it plays in the run up to a (real) election, if and when that happens. If there is any hope for a meaningful coalition of opposition groups to form, I think that twitter and facebook will probably have to play a significant role, as in Venezuela.

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