A couple of years ago you may never have thought that social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter would be igniting and fueling real world rebellions. Well now that’s happening: from Tunisia and Syria, Russia and England, to even here in America. Groups have taken to social networks to get the word out, promote their beliefs, and fuel revolution.
While people have been pegging our generation and this century as ‘The Digital Age’, nothing has so profoundly blended culture and technology like the events of the past year. The beliefs, passions, ideas, and needs of the oppressed (for lack of a better word) have not suddenly spiked. These rebels have not all of a sudden decided that 2011 was the year to protest. 2011 became the year that all these protests finally got substantial attention. People all over the world came in direct contact with the people on the streets. When protestors saw themselves and their actions broadcasted all over the world, it served only to fuel their revolution.
Before, these revolutions were isolated events known only to those present and the few reporters available. This led to a world of censorship as corporate media companies spun events however they wanted because nobody ever knew what was actually happening. The introduction and usage of social networking sites have served to ‘cut out the middle man’ and allow people all over the world to see the events in real time.
Egypt is the first example of social media being both a spark and an accelerant to the movement. Did social networking sites cause the revolution? No. But they did help speed up the process by helping to organize the protest and transmit their message to the world. The key to Egypt’s revolution was that the regime in power underestimated the ability of technology to organize and sustain the movement. The leaders of Egypt were 60, 70, even 80 years old. None of them had ever used Facebook or Twitter, nor understood the potential behind them.
Here in America, Occupy Wall Street began when the anti consumerism magazine Adbusters posted a suggestion on Twitter about a march in New York on Sept. 17th, inspired by the Egyptian Tahrir Square uprising. From there, a massive Twitter onslaught began. The hashtags #occupywallstreet and #ows were trending for months. Worldwide attention was captured within a matter of days. To host different occupy protests around the country, the meet up site www.meetup.com was used as a tool to gather people and organize events. There are currently over 2,800 occupy together communities on meetup. This type of organization and execution of protests has been seen before.
In conclusion, social networking sites did not cause these uprisings to happen. What they did was help organize the protests, capture worldwide recognition, and fuel these uprisings like never before. The term ‘Digital Age’ is thrown around a lot, but in the near future we will truly begin to see what the Internet is capable of. People all over the world have seen the success of Egypt, Tunisia, and others and will start their own. This is only the beginning.