The Power of the Social Network

There is a lot of talk of the Twitter Revolution. Many people seem to be going on and on about the power of the social networks, and so often it seems unfounded and difficult to believe.  But look: it is happening right now…

After 23 years as the country’s leader, President Ben Ali fled Tunisia in the middle of this month as unrest escalated into protests into riots.  The people of Tunisia showed the government where the power really lay: in their hands.

And now the same is happening in Egypt.  President Mubarak, nearing his 30th year as leader of the country, has had to appoint a vice president, for the first in his leadership, to help him deal with the trouble.  Commentators are beginning to wonder if Mr Mubarak will be toppled from the throne he has clutched close to his chest since 1981.

We are seeing something amazing happen in North Africa.  And it has all come about through the use of social networks Twitter and Facebook.  By organising demonstrations through these websites, people have discovered that they are not alone in their disillusion; in their dissatisfaction with the status quo.

The fear drained away when they saw their numbers.  Their hands closed into fists as they saw the fire in their neighbours’ eyes: faces and words on a screen viewed from their living room.

Digital technology and social networking has removed the need for a rally.  The government cannot break up a congregation such as this simply with the brute force of the police.

For all the pointless status updates and useless tweets, who would have suspected just how powerful two websites could be?

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About Adrian

Musician, Entrepreneur, and Zen practitioner/teacher based in The Lake District, UK.
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7 Responses to The Power of the Social Network

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention The Power of the Social Network | Press and Broadcast Freedom -- Topsy.com

  2. Ruben Martínez says:

    I think it is important to point out that Facebook has played an important role on both cases, Tunisia and Egypt. Protesters in both countries have organized rallies through this social networking site, more than Twitter.

    There is a difference between Facebook and Twitter. While the latter is mainly used to break news stories, the former has played a different role, enabling people to organize themselves in a better way.

  3. Anne Gonschorek says:

    “By organising demonstrations through these websites, people have discovered that they are not alone in their disillusion; in their dissatisfaction with the status quo.”

    I think that exactly hits the mark. Through the newsupdates that are posted on Facebook, the videos you can share on there, people have become more daring (or at least less scared).

    And I agree with Ruben, and there is also another difference:

    Links posted via Twitter can be blocked by repressive governments. Posts on Facebook, when people simple copy + paste news content, can’t. (unless, of course, they block Facebook itself)

  4. Adrian Naik says:

    Completely true — they both play different roles; having different functionality. But combined, as seen in Tunisia and Egypt, they can be very, very powerful.

    As long as these services remain independent of any government influence they can perform this role.

  5. Pingback: The Internet and Iran’s Twitter revolution. | Press and Broadcast Freedom

  6. How long do you think it can continue before leaders clamp down on Twitter and Facebook? How long will it be before repressive regimes realize what they have at their fingertips and use it’s power against people, or to spread propaganda?

    With all these great developments you have to be aware that they have a great power for destruction too. Right now it’s new… and maybe it’s full potential hasn’t been realized yet. The internet itself started out with amazing potential- and has lived up to that- but what it has also spawned is countless new problems we never considered before.

    If Facebook and Twitter are great resources to do good and communicate, they are just as much great resources to spread lies and do damage.

  7. Adrian n says:

    True Jess –there may come new problems from this. But in some countries, they are taking this kind of organisation seriously, and are aware of the possible consequences:

    http://ca.news.yahoo.com/zimbabweans-tortured-egypt-protests-meeting-20110224-075453-280.html

    However, in countries such as these, it is very easy to switch off the internet entirely; in Zimbabwe for example, electricity is often hard to come by due to loadshedding.

    The countries to watch out for in terms of using Facebook and Twitter against the people are the less likely suspects: the USA and the UK. Think of the police presence in the UK on Twitter, and the arrest of this man: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jan/18/robin-hood-airport-twitter-arrest

    They have the technology to censor the internet without anyone finding out. By the way, most Facebook users — they now have all your personal details, and also know exactly where you are. Big Brother much?

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