Arab Spring and Social Media

The Arab Spring gave way for revolution in the Middle East for countries like Egypt and Tunisia. The revolution of social media has sparked a new information gateway for people all over the world, making it easier for people to find relevant information on crucial issues in order to take consequential action. Mobile phones were the first step in organizing revolution, as citizens would “call their social networks into the streets” (Hussain, 38-39). Then, political activists would organize civil disobedience through social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, which was a way of social organizing as a gateway into communicating plans of uprising and protest (Hussain, 39). In this way, social networking has a positive influence in the Arab Spring in that it creates a forum for citizens to communicate plans of civil uprising against authoritarian governments that are oppressive.

In a study conducted by Tufekci and Wilson (2012), they found that social media, especially Facebook and Twitter SNS, played a key role in the protests that preceded the resignation of Mubarak. Protesters were able to gain information first and foremost from Facebook, and then furthermore, was a platform for posting videos and pictures (Tufekci, 374). It was also found that people who used Facebook and Twitter were more likely to participate in the protests than people who relied on telephone and e-mail (Tufekci, 375).

This goes against what we’ve been discussing in class in terms of “slack-tivism” in that these articles support the usage of social networking sites as a way to get involved and start political revolution as a means of obtaining democracy in authoritarian countries.

If you were living in a country like Egypt circa 2010, where would you go first to get information regarding Mubarak? In obtaining this information, would you be willing to participate in protests that could lead to government brutality?

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3 Responses to Arab Spring and Social Media

  1. You pose great questions in this reading! It was interesting to think about whether or not I would use social media as a way to learn about the protests in Egypt. Personally, I tend not to use social networks as a means of political activism and personal opinion, so I think I would be wary of being so open with my opinion – especially in a country where government brutality is a serious threat and possibility.

    These readings made me think about the potential for mobile technology in the creation of “citizen journalists,” although I still think we have to acknowledge that this technology is far from mainstream. As another answer to your question, I would have to ask if I would even have access to the technology in the first place, especially since I am a woman. This in itself may have limited my personal uses.

  2. emnrich says:

    I really don’t know what I’d do if I were living in Egypt. It really depends on the popularity of these social media outlets at the time. I think it would be a smart way to gather information, simply because Twitter and Facebook make obtaining information really quick and easy, but if these media weren’t incredibly well known, I don’t know if I’d trust them enough to rely on them for my information. I think your post reminds me a lot of Meghan’s, because she poses questions about early adopters. And, in this case, I think it would definitely be necessary to be an early adopter because you have to know enough about the medium to trust the information you’re receiving from it.

  3. liarosen says:

    I agree with Meaghan that social media is often not my initial source of information or means of political action, however, it is interesting to think about it in this context. Though it is hard to image living in that kind of political environment, I think I would ultimately turn to these platforms for information. Like Meaghan, I think the aspect of citizen journalism makes these platforms unique: this would be most likely the best means of these first-hand accounts, however, it is also far from common. The difficulty then arises in the fact that information is so limited that it is difficult to sort through arguments and opinions in order to expand your own knowledge. I think it would be a necessary, yet risky, form of information in such an environment.

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