There is no doubt that social media has increased the power of communication between families, friends, and even among strangers. The Internet has become an important tool that links millions of people around the world. Although it is more convenient to send emails now, instant messaging and video calls are the tools that have transformed online communication. Consequently, social media has become a central instrument in activism and revolution on the world stage. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and the like, have transformed social activism. The authority that political systems previously had over the masses has shifted, and now, it is easier for those who are oppressed to come together and challenge the authority.
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Social media has become a powerful organizing tool that allows individuals from different locations to organize their ideas into actions (Storck 25). This organizing ability was displayed best during the Mumbai attacks and the Haiti earthquake (Sheedy 18). The Egyptian uprising, for example, took just 8 days to oust Mubarak. When compared to the Libyan situation, which took a whole 9 months, then one can appreciate the speed. The people were also more organized, and as a result, the process was relatively peaceful. Social media networks were central to the acceleration of events and the masses capitalized on the ability to communicate with large numbers of people at the same time and the speed with which communication travels on social networks (Faris 13). The speed with which platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, spread information was essential in empowering the Iranians to stand up against the communist government in 2009.
Social media has become more or less an alternative press (Storck 27). For the first time in history, the masses have found a type of media where the political authority has no control. There is no one to edit the information being shared online (Faris 2). Due to these low entry levels, it has become an accessible platform for common citizens and unconventional journalists to report events as they are taking place (Faris 4). They can send texts, and upload audios and videos directly to the Internet. This information then becomes accessible to a large mass of followers who also share it with others. Even the mainstream media has become reliant on reputed bloggers for their news, as seen with Al-Jazeera and Twitter users at the height of the Arab Spring (Storck 30).
Social media generates awareness (Storck 32) more than any other tool known today. Studies have indicated that the protests that rocked the Arab world in the recent past started online. Similar studies have also indicated that people log into their online accounts just to get updates on the happenings around the world. A curvilinear effect exists between followers and follows, a higher number increasing a source’s credibility. In some sites such as Facebook, users can create groups where people with similar interests can interact (Sheedy 17).
Social media acts more like a meeting or a physical gathering where everyone is allowed to attend. Therefore, instead of attending meetings, rallies, and workshops, individuals can join Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube to get the same information. Activists, therefore, find an already formed platform, which they can easily use to push their agendas.
Faris, David. “Beyond Social Media Revolutions: The Arab Spring and the Networked Revolt.” Politique Étrangère 77.1 (2012):1-34. Print.
Sheedy, Caroline. Social Media for Social Change: A Case Study of Social Media Use in the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. Diss. American University, 2011. Print.
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Storck, Madeline. “The Role of Social Media in Political Mobilization: A Case Study of the January 2011 Egyptian Uprising.” Diss. University of St. Andrews, 2011. Print.