The spread of information is not a new phenomenon, as Anderson (2011) states when describing how news expands globally. However, the techniques by which the spread occurs has changed recently, and the impact of this new mechanism of sharing information has been most affected by the Arab world. The Arab Spring, consisting of protests and revolutions, was majorly successful because of the role of digital media. The expansion of social networking sites, blogging, and digital communication in general has provided the opportunity for ordinary people to share information at a rate never seen before. The increased role of digital social media has occurred at the perfect time for these Arab countries to take advantage of this method of communication, which is why the protests proved to be successful.
Anderson (2011) states that timing has helped to explain the wave of revolutions that have occurred. Despite sharing the desire to overthrow their current government, the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya all varied with regard to their individual goals and achievements. However, upon utilizing digital media, it became evident that social networking sites or unregulated forms of technology became a source of information that the regimes could not control (Tufekci & Wilson, 2012). Although constraints and attempts at shutting down this technology occurred, the technologically savvy generation proved to hold the control with this type of communication. Once citizens realized that they could have a role in voicing their opinions, more content was produced and previously taboo topics were being discussed. According to Howard & Hussain, the increase in communication stemmed from the lack of individual leaders. Therefore, people were not afraid to speak their mind, because the government was unsure how to approach the situation, seeing as though they had never witnessed such a widespread and accessible revolution at the hands of their people.
Once citizens realized that they could actually make a difference in their society, they continued to spread the word about online reform and methods for sharing information. Protesters blogged, facebooked, and tweeted about specific protests, ultimately creating collective action within an individualized community. Digital media provided the perfect platform at the time for the people of these countries to spark unrest, leading them to partake in a movement that was amenable to ordinary citizens. How do you think the role of social media differs in the US in comparison to the Arab countries? What are some cultural differences that can impact how an individual may be willing to use social media to create a change?