How Facebook Changed the World: The Spread of Arab Spring

How Facebook Changed the World: The Spread of Arab Spring

The Arab spring is a name given to the revolutions that happened in the Arab world, starting from December 2010 and taking hold till now. The reason behind these revolutions is to maintain a democratic state that is based on human rights, respect of minorities and religious diversity. However, having such a revolution requires a big support and a strong foundation. But according to Malcolm Glade well’s argument in the “New Yorker”, social media may not aid democratic revolutions. So can the so called Arab spring have come without it? Social media powered up the Arab spring by organizing the protests that were planned, disseminating information to the outside world making social media a megaphone, and giving the ability to people to give their opinion.

The movie “How Facebook changed the world: Arab Spring”, showed the start of the revolutions after the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouzazi in Tunisia for taking his rights from him. These revolutions in the Arab world were spread quickly, taking hold in 7 Arab countries all together. It was known as the “Arab Awakening”, or the “Arab Uprisings”, although not all protesters were Arabs, but there was minorities of outsiders that the international media has also noted out to. There were lots of issues that led to the protests, such as the poverty, the economic decline, and the unemployment. But the main reason was the issue of dictatorship that Arabs refuse to exercise nowadays, especially the youth and educated Arabs who have been outside of their country.

Social Media is best understood as a group of new kinds of online Medias, which share connectedness, communication, Openness, and Participation. These websites don't just give information to people, but interacts with them while giving that information. This interaction can be as simple as giving the possibility to let users to comment or vote on an article, or even share it. Visiting Social sites is the 4th most popular internet activity, ahead of personal email, and that is because of the facility of using them. Social media is one of the easiest ways to share something that is happening around the world. The Lebanese journalist and academic Zahra Harb said in an interview “The social media is the new form of radical media” (Harb), which made the social Medias a major tool to use in the Arab spring revolutions.

Social Media was able to help the so-called Arab Spring, by disseminating and spreading information to the neighboring and outside countries. Social Medias such as Twitter, Facebook, and even blogs, were able to show the pictures and videos, and talk about the events that happened in the protests, so the people outside the countries can see it and join in the revolution. According to Kate Taylor a feature writer in the Globe’s Arts section “The success of demands for political change in Egypt and Tunisia led individuals in other countries to pick up the conversation. It helped create discussion across the region” (Taylor). And that helped in a big way the revolution to succeed and take the attention of neighboring countries. It was one of the main reasons Egypt and Tunisia were able to defeat the oppressive groups. Statistics show that these shared statuses and posts on any social medias were being followed mostly by people outside the country itself; “According to that study, more than 75 percent of people who clicked on embedded Twitter links related to the uprisings were from outside the Arab world” (Marks), 75 % is a very large number that proves social media is the way for other countries to get in the revolution discussion. Also it shows that the best way to spread the protesting events is by social Medias. The posts and tweets started also increasing because of the distribution of ideas outside, “there was an average of 2,400 tweets a day from people in neighboring countries about the political situation in Egypt” (Kate). In the movie “How Facebook changed the world: Arab spring”, a protester was being interviewed regarding the use of mobile phones to share what is happening, his comments were “Somebody had to show the outside world what was happening” (How Facebook changed the world: Arab spring), So The weapons of the activist so called Arab spring weren’t guns and bombs, but the internet and the mobile phone to try and spread to the world what is happening, “In every protester pocket was a tool to show the world what is happening, a mobile phone” (How Facebook changed the world: Arab spring). It all started in Tunisia: after being punished by the government, the protesters and the activist had no strong radical media to share what was happening, “Radical media rarely exits in the Arab world the form it exist in the different western countries” (Harb).So there was no choice but to use the social medias, “They knew there was one way to share the images across Tunisia, Facebook” (How Facebook Changed the world: Social Media). This made social media the actual radical media, to share images and videos online to the world. So the Social Medias, helped the Arab spring because it was able to spread the information across the world, and share all the images and videos that was not shared by radical Medias.

The Arab spring was fueled by social media, because Facebook and twitter were able to organize the protests that were planned. Before the days of social media, people used to go through a lot to be able to organize one protest, however with nowadays social media; the organization goes faster than before, one event on Facebook or twitter can gather thousands of people, “In Moldova in the spring 2009 to protest against their country’s communist government, the action was dubbed the Twitter Revolution, Because of the means by which the demonstrators had been brought together” (10). Social Medias can also give the courage and the confident, for the people to rise against their government, pumping up the crowd by reasons or facts by posts or blogs that can maintain a relation and conversation between the protesters themselves, in the article “The New Yorker”, Malcolm Gladewell wrote “Without twitter the people of Iran would not have felt empowered and confident to stand up for freedom and democracy” (10). And the way the revolutions started in the Arab countries caught the world off guard; it was very different from all the other revolutions that happened around the world. “The protests had been studying the political struggle online and writing blogs calling for revolutions in Egypt” (How Facebook Changed the world). Blogs, events on Facebook and Twitter got all these protests gathering together, and it was the only way to gather the people, because distributing flyers in public was not an easy task. According to Shady Ghazali Harb, a British-educated surgeon, the way to do it was “invite as much people as we can on Facebook, but not in public because it is dangerous” (How Facebook Changed the World: Social Media) . The Social Media helped organize the protests and was the main reason behind this Arab Spring.

Social Medias Powered up the Arab Spring By giving the ability to people to share their opinions and thoughts. The Arab world, except for couple of countries such as Morocco and Lebanon, has an undermined media that makes it hard for people to share their opinion on their own government. William A.Rugh the author of the book “The Arab Press” claims that “Radio and television in the Arab world are typically monopolies under direct government supervision” (113). However social media was the only part of the media, which gave the chance for people to express their anger and hatred on their own government. The Lebanese journalist and academic says “What social media have done is give the spaces for these people to be able to express themselves, gave them this what we call in academia this new public sphere”(Zahra), this new public sphere that Zahra defines never existed in any other kind of media in the Arab world . William A.Rugh writes “Arab government tends to control the newspapers and colonial administration in the Arab world” (7). But social Media made the people voices be heard everywhere. Arab Spring would not have made it without the voices of the people, and the voices of activists, especially the youth literate educated ones, regarding the oppression they were living under, “This young middle class educated, internet literate youth have actually come together with the workers union, and they stood together” (Zahra). So social media was behind the success of the Arab spring, because it gave the people the opportunity to express their opinions and let their voices be heard.

Even though the social media is an important factor for the protesters in the Arab spring, it can also be an advantage for oppressive groups to track down the dissidents. When the twitter started having an excessive use, the government started taking advantage of it. “Paid government tweeters or computer programs can flood twitter hash tag search results and blog commentary to give false sense of public opinion” (Marks). Even writing blogs was not an easy task to do in some Arab countries “bloggers can be imprisoned and even tortured for posting several materials online” (How Facebook Changed the World: Social Media). And this strategy was being used during the protests in the Arab world. However, this shutdown in twitter accounts did not stop the revolution for two reasons. First the twitter and Facebook accounts that was being watched was used for an advantage, which was “trying to trick police in the wrong places” (How Facebook Changed the World: Social Media), by showing wrong gathering places. Second, the anger inside those activists increased when social media stopped. “Ironically government efforts to crack down on social media may have incited more public activism, especially in Egypt. People who were isolated by efforts to shut down the internet, mostly middle-class Egyptians, may have gone to the streets when they could no longer follow the unrest through social media”(Taylor). The day the government stopped the internet, the people got out of their homes, and this is what bolstered people to protest more. For that reasons, Government efforts to stop social media may have not come as an advantage for the oppressive groups.

Social media powered up the Arab Spring and has created a new space for how history will remember its events, “the protest era should serve as a textbook example” (303). It helped to organize the protests and helped the neighboring countries to be involved in it. But it was also an advantage for the government to track down the protesters. This might well be the first time that people living under autocratic rule have managed to document their struggles and movement on almost the best way, leaving a long digital trail of Tweets, Facebook posts, YouTube videos, blogs and so much more. Regardless of what history books or public records will look like in decades to come, one thing is already clear: The future of activism in the Middle East is unlikely to resemble its past.

Works Cited
Rugh, William A. . The Arab Press. Syracuse: Syracuse UP, 1987. Print.
"Social Media And the Arab Spring." Interview by Zahera Harb. Blip. 8 Oct. 2011. Web. 20 Nov. 2011. .
How Facebook Changed the World: The Arab Spring. Prod. Ricardo Pollack. Perf. Mishal Husain. BBC, 2011. Documentary.
Taylor, Kate. "Arab Spring Really Was Social Media Revolution." TG Daily | Technology, Science, Entertainment, and Business News. 13 Sept. 2011. Web. 17 Nov. 2011. .
Marks 09/16/2011, Joseph. "Social Media's Role in Arab Spring Still Unclear." Nextgov - Federal Technology News, Best Practices, and Web 2.0 Tools. 16 Sept. 2011. Web. 17 Nov. 2011. .
Gladwell, Malcolm. "Animals Of Innovation." The New Yorker (2010): 1-10. Print.
Kent, Jennings M. "Generation Units and the Student Protest Movement in the United States." Wiley-Blackwell, 2002. 303-24. JSTOR. Web. .