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EFFECT OF SOCIAL MEDIA ON THE ARAB SPRING.

by on April 30, 2014

 

Facebook and Twitter have developed incredibly since its creation a few years ago and has become one of the largest social networks in the world. Twitter, is a social messaging website in the form of a small blog with the ability to follow people and have followers at the same time. Twitter and Facebook are new tools to communicate instantly between two or more people, coordinating messages of the development of certain events.

Facebook and Twitter functions in at least forty languages across the world, and they are available in Arabic as well. Surprisingly, twenty of the twenty two Arab countries are involved in the Facebook social network club, in which 21.31million users were part of the social network by the beginning of 2011. By October the same year, the number of users increased to 33.07 million across the Arabic countries.

The uprisings in the Arab world had its origin in Tunisia in the early 2011 and spread in a straightforward direction to other countries in the region. After Tunisia, the revolution spread to Egypt, then to Yemen, Syria, Libya, and so on. However, the revolutions did not spread to the wealthy monarchies in the Persian Gulf. These countries remained largely untouched by the events.

The 2011 revolutions in the Arab world were different from previous struggles because the mechanisms and tools used by the protesters were mobile phones rather than weapons. This time the revolutionaries used new technologies to communicate with one another in order to gather thousands of people simultaneously.

When the revolution broke out, international media was not aware of the events in Tunisia, as it would later do in Egypt and other Arab states. However, normal passengers who arrived in Tunis International Airport managed to use their own handy-cams and iPhones rather than the professional equipment that journalist normally use to record such important events and post them on Facebook, Tweeter or other social networks.

At the beginning of the revolts, reporting about what was going on in Tunisia was extremely dangerous as the Interior Ministry police would rather allow the police forces to wave their guns in the face of protestors and reporters who were trying to get information about the uprising.

When Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire in the central Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid on 17 December 2010, his cousin posted a video of the events on YouTube, and he was soon able to contact the Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera, which was quickly joined by other international channels that were outside the control of the Tunisian government. However, television broadcasting was not the only strongest point in spreading the dramatic events in Tunisia and abroad, it was social media which managed to gather millions of people.

In the pursuit of cooling down the protests, president Ben Ali reacted quickly visiting Bouazizi’s bedside in a publicized event, but did nothing to convince angry Tunisians. Instead, protesters spoke loudly and the revolution grew bigger, making president Ali leave the country in order to ask for refuge in Saudi Arabia.

Egyptians, on the other hand, could not help, but feel envy for the courage of Tunisians who stood against the dreaded dictator Ben Ali, nevertheless, they too engaged with their own internal conflict in which demonstrations broke out and quickly spread all over the country in pursuit of political change.

In the summer of 2010, police detectives were responsible for the murder of the twenty eight year old Khaled Mohamed Said. He was beaten to death outside an internet-café not far from Alexandria. This horrible incident was recorded and posted on a Facebook page under the title ‘We are all Khaled Said!.’ That was enough reason for Egyptians to rise up against such atrocities committed by government officers.

When the revolution started, protesters used their own mobile phones to record police arrests, police assaults on civilians and so on, but also to instruct protestors on Facebook and Twitter on how to behave during the revolt. An activist in Egypt tweeted to his followers, “is easy and flexible to do from your mobile. If we have a lot of actions here I might do as many as twenty or thirty Twits a day”

These events certainly paved the use of social media as one of the main factors that contributed in organising the revolution in a successful manner. Therefore, there is no doubt that social media embodies the connection between action and expression, but this generation still need to know how much more social media will challenge power in the future, as some governments are creating new laws in order to restrict its function freely.

 

SOURCES

Beckett C. and Ball J. (2012) WikiLeaks News in the Networked Era. 1st ed. Cambridge. Polity Press.

Bashri, M., Netzley, S. and Greiner, A. 2012 ‘Facebook revolutions: Transitions in the Arab world, transition in media coverage? A comparative analysis of CNN and Aljazeera English’s on line coverage of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions’ Journal of Arab & Media Research, vol. 5, no1, November, pp 19-29.

Mair, J. and Keeble, R. (ed) (2011) Mirage in the Desert? Reporting the ‘Arab Spring.’ United Kingdom. Abramis academic publishing.

Seib, P. (2012) Real- Time Diplomacy, Politics and Power in the Social Media Era. 1st ed. United States. Palgrave Macmillan.

Tadros, M. 2012 Introduction: The Pulse of the Arab Spring Revolt, IDS Bulletin, vol. 43, no 1, January, pp 1-15.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/webwise/guides/about-facebook

Accessed on 02/02/14

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21428596.400-was-the-arab-spring-really-a-facebook-revolution.html#.UvO-NXnA6lI

Accessed on 06/01/14

http://www.tdrp.net/PDFs/Social%20Media%20&%20Arab%20Spring%20-%20Egypt.pdf

Accessed on 08/01/14

http://www.academia.edu/2578601/The_Role_of_Social_Media_in_Arab_Spring

Accessed on 08/01/14

 

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One Comment
  1. dac0662 permalink

    Social media was definitely pivotal in the Arab Spring uprising. It was not only a means to show the outside world what was going on at the time but was also crucial internally in allowing different groups to communicate with one another and in organising demonstrations.

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