By Majed Alghamdi
The role of social media in Egypt’s revolution can neither be neglected nor praised since its impact was subtle and powerful.
At the time, few people could access the Internet and the message reached a small number of people. Statistics show only 21 million people from Arab countries used social platforms. Regardless of this handicap, the information was received around the world and was able to rally supporters to achieve particular objectives. For the duration of the revolution, Internet connectivity was cut down and all communications with the outside world was highly controlled. However, that which was able to pass through was broadcasted in three main social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Initial photographs of police brutality surfaced in individual accounts. Consequently, pages were created with particularly inciting messages, such as the Facebook page created in honor of Khalid Said, who was killed by police. Underneath the page header was inciting information that showed solidarity and togetherness of the people of Egypt and included messages which cited police brutality. Eventually, these pages would get several followers and “likes” who would continue discussing ongoing issues while posting images and messages of protesting Egyptians and government actions. Other pages that discussed the expectations of the Egyptians were created and active discussions were featured on these pages’ walls. In addition, international participants, such as other Arab citizens and Egyptians living abroad, were able to contribute their views in these forums.
Facebook posts worked hand-in-hand with YouTube and Twitter. The video of the murder of Khalid Said was posted on YouTube and went on to have more than 500,000 views. In addition, Egyptians living abroad who had relatives living in Egypt communicated frequently. Their conversations were frequently featured on YouTube, which encouraged citizens to discuss events and share ideas. Such videos also were highlighted in news channels such as Aljazeera English and BBC Arabic.
Tweets were very helpful in providing up-to-date information concerning events as they happen as well as plans that were being taken by activists during protests. Such discussions featured people from different backgrounds, including doctors, judges, students, lawyers and political activists, which gained the movement international recognition.
Events that were happening in Tahrir Square were most featured in tweets, images and YouTube videos. However, the international community was not the only benefactor from the Egyptian Revolution. Events that occurred elsewhere such as Tunisia, Algeria and Iran were also featured and average Arab and Middle Eastern citizens were connected based on the common situation they were in.
The role of the media could be summarized in three parts. First is the vertical threshold that increased the usage of social platforms in Egypt. Second is the horizontal expansion which involved people from different social and economic backgrounds who came together to achieve one main objective. Thirdly, and finally, is the compound effect that saw the role of social media integrate other countries such as Tunisia, China and Iran, hence increasing allegiance and worldwide participation.
E-mail Alghamdi, a graduate student, at email@example.com