The so-called Arab Spring has shown that people are ready to struggle for their rights and seek for a better life without resorting to violence. For instance, people in the Arab region found ways to organize a variety of demonstrations and other gatherings to make a difference.
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Notably, there are different views on the role social media played in the revolutions. Some even claim that social media played a crucial role in the uprising (Khamis et al. 8). However, some state that the role of social media has been overestimated (Beaumont n.p.). Thus, it is important to understand to which extent social media influenced the development of social movements in the world to understand possible implications of media in different regions.
How Exactly Were Social Media Used?
In the first place, it is necessary to note that development of technology has made the world ‘smaller’. The concepts of time and distance have been reconsidered. Social media have become a potent means to share views and tell stories. Thus, the “Internet penetration rate in Egypt reached 24.3 percent in 2009… [a]fter the 2011 revolution, the number of Facebook users jumped to over seven million” (Khamis et al. 1).
People wanted to share their experiences. They wanted to make people see what was really happening in the countries and in their cities. At the same time, social media were used to launch various meetings (Khamis et al. 1). Therefore, it is possible to note that social media did play certain role during the Arab Spring.
Were Social Media That Influential?
At the same time, it is hardly possible to claim that social media has started playing crucial role in social movements or played crucial role during the Arab Spring. For instance, in many countries (e.g. Moldova and Romania) quite a few people have access to social media (Gladwell n.p.). Thus, it is highly unlikely that the protests which took place in Moldova in 2009 were closely connected with cyber activism in the country.
Social networks did not play significant role in coordinating protests or other activities in Arab region. It is noted that the online discourse was mainly in English and it would be strange if “people trying to coordinate protests in Iran would be writing in any language other than Farsi” (Gladwell n.p.). Thus, even such a simple example shows that social media were not used as a means of coordination or inspiration for protesters.
Social Media Were Used to Make People Know
Social media played most significant role in raising awareness; sharing stories and making people know what exactly was happening. One of protesters in Tunis claimed that they put everything on Facebook. He added, “It’s how we tell the world what’s happening” (qtd. in Beaumont n.p.).
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Social media became the source of knowledge mainly for those who lived outside the countries where revolutions were taking place. Admittedly, the majority of online resources were censored by those in power and social networks became almost the only way to send messages to the rest of the world. This was the major role played by social media.
On balance, it is possible to note that social media are playing a significant role in social activism at present. However, it is still impossible to claim that this role is crucial. Social networks help people share their stories and make others know what is really happening.
Beaumont, Peter. “The Truth about Twitter, Facebook and the Uprisings in the Arab World.” The Guardian. 2011.
Gladwell, Malcolm. “Small Change.” The New Yorker. 2010.
Khamis, Sahar, Paul B. Gold and Katherine Vaughn. “Beyond Egypt’s “Facebook Revolution” and Syria’s “YouTube Uprising:” Comparing Political Contexts, Actors and Communication Strategies.” Arab Media & Society 15. (2012)