Social Media Truly Revolutionary

As if owning a Facebook or Twitter account hasn’t already become enough of a norm in these technology-centered times, the idea that Facebook is capable of bringing about historical revolutions causes one to rethink the significant impact that social media has on our everyday lives. As we have learned from recent events, social networking websites aren’t just for planning the next weekend kickback with your friends anymore.

The quick exchange of information and the wide accessibility of online social networking are making social change possible in a way that was not possible just a few years ago. One very recent example is Egypt’s “Facebook Revolution.” It must be the “age of the Internet” when more than 85,000 Egyptian citizens can come together online to plan a “Revolution Day” event on Facebook that would eventually lead to the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak and the end of 30 years of oppressive government — all within a period of 18 days.

As mentioned in The Huffington Post, Egyptian Google marketing manager Wael Ghonim has now been deemed a symbol for being a key organizer of this online-bred revolution. He stated in a CNN interview, “I want to meet Mark Zuckerberg one day and thank him.” He continued, “This revolution started online. This revolution started on Facebook … I’ve always said that if you want to liberate a society just give them the Internet.” The fact that Zuckerberg was named “Person of the Year” in 2010 could not have been any timelier.

Another important aspect of these emerging Facebook-bred revolutions is that social media serves as a widely available outlet where prevalent attitudes on significant issues can be easily expressed. Here in America, massive fundraising through Facebook and other Internet sources was a significant factor in helping Barack Obama get elected and become the first African-American President of the United States. In this case with the Egyptians, online social networking was a catalyst for manifesting a revolution that was going to happen anyway.

For instance, even before the protests broke out in Cairo, there was already a strong anti-government sentiment both in Egypt and in other nearby countries, most notably in Tunisia. As stated in a blog post by Eunice Crook, the British Council country director of Tunisia, the frequent updates through Facebook on the Tunisian uprisings has helped keep the country’s citizens informed and thinking about what is to become of their government, now that it has been a little over a month since President Ben Ali fled the country. Crook also mentions that the Tunisian upheaval “was and is a Facebook revolution.” Evidently, the Egyptian online revolution drew inspiration from the Tunisians to bring revolution into their own country. And even when the Egyptian government took away Internet access from its citizens, Internet users outside of Egypt expressed solidarity online for the protestors via Facebook, Twitter and even Tumblr to try to bring more attention to the Egyptian protests.

In a sense, social media led to change in Egypt and Tunisia because it provided a forum for attitudes that were already there. It was a catalyst for change that was going to happen at some point anyway. The American Revolution came about just fine without Facebook, but we now live in an era when social media and rapid communication can produce change at an unprecedented pace. Modern technology allows ideas to be shared more efficiently than ever before.

Taking into account the effectiveness of online social networking, it is definitely possible that positive change can be brought about here in the U.S., in California and even right here on campus. And let’s face it: especially as college students, we use Facebook just as much — if not more — as Facebook users do in the Middle East. Why not take advantage of our frequent use of Facebook to turn our ideas of change into reality? Online social networking is a tool within our reach that can connect us to others where we can collectively bring improvement to everyone’s lives.  An idea written as a Facebook wall post has the potential to turn into real social change.

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