Social Media and the Egyptian and Tunisian Revolutions

The revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia during the Arab Spring are two of the best examples of how social media can have an impact on revolution. Neither of these successful revolutions had a clear leader, or central political party. In fact, both of these uprisings can be thought of simply as the will of the people to be heard. In their article Revolutionizing Revolutions:Virtual Collective Consciousness and the Arab Spring, Yousri Marzouki and Olivier Oullier are quoted as writing,

arab-spring-fb-twitter“Facebook was the main channel that facilitated and accelerated the Tunisian revolution as repeatedly reported in the news and by many observers. Twitter, too, played a crucial role during the Egyptian revolution. Hence, it is very likely that without these social networking platforms, these revolutions would certainly have evolved more slowly, if at all and would have never reached the global opinion.”

They remark that Twitter and Facebook were catalysts in the uprisings, and that they allowed not only a speedy exchange of information, but “unprecedented waves of spread.” In short, the revolutions became globalized information because of Twitter and Facebook, instead of merely local phenomena. A Pacific Standard article states that,

Twitter-Egypt-revolution2-322x250“During the heady days of protests in Cairo, one activist succinctly tweeted about why digital media was so important to the organization of political unrest. “We use Facebook to schedule the protests, Twitter to coordinate, and YouTube to tell the world,” she said. The protesters openly acknowledge the role of digital media as a fundamental infrastructure for their work.”

The understanding of the differing functionality and purpose of those social media platforms was key to understanding the uprisings. In fact, UN Ambassador Susan Rice said, “The power of this technology, the power of social networking to channel and champion public sentiment, has been more evident in the past few weeks than ever before.” What we can take away from the Arab Spring in relation to social media is the fundamental change in how information is spread, and how that information can get people motivated in ways that other forms of journalism cannot.



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