Role of Social Media

The Role of Social Media One year After the Egyptian Revolution

It has been a year since the start of Jan 25th 2011 Egyptian Revolution, many events took place during that past year, good and bad. What we would like to address here however, is the part the social media played in the aftermath and try to answer a few of the open questions we had in our last year’s post, The eRevolution; “Could social networking become a two-edge sword? What if social networking is used by the wrong people or for the wrong reasons? What would constitute a wrong reason or the wrong people?

The Power of Social Media

After a month of vacation which I spent in Egypt, I came back more confident of the power of social media, but at the same time realizing how a serious two-edge sword it could be. It was very clear to me that in Egypt, social media with its embedded lack of governance became a tool of igniting people rather than mobilizing them.

The absolute positive role social media played during the 18 days of the 25th of Jan, 2011 Revolution has been shattered and been transformed for the most part into a tool of creating chaos.

egypt facebook twitter

According to socialbakers.com (Egypt Facebook Statistics) and The Wall Street Journal (Facebook Sees Egypt Usage Spike), Facebook usage jumped 91% from Jan 2011 to Jan 2012. Among many other reasons, the massive growth and high penetration rate in social media usage in Egypt created a very healthy environment for gossip, rumors and a tremendously effective way of transporting a piece of information across almost the entire nation.

A single tweet or Facebook status update can go viral and create a lot of misconceptions among users and before you know it, media outlets with an unforeseen irresponsibility and lack of oversight, start exchanging that piece of information as if it were a fact with no or at best minimal effort to validate it.

A New Democracy

Democracy in Egypt is still a new concept to many, and unfortunately many Egyptians believe they fully understand how democracy works. Despite the successful elections Egypt witnessed, people do not realize that this is just the first step towards democracy, and instead of taking the next step, they use social and regular media to galvanize others towards extremely opposing directions creating immense political differences and forming huge gaps in difference of opinions.

So, what do you think happens when you have tens of different and extremely opposing sides calling for street demonstrations?

It is not all negative of course, the flip and positive side of all this is that the social media is still used by many as a powerful tool in building a high level of transparency and is still regarded as a preemptive and deterrence tool to most politicians to think twice before misusing their power.

Nevertheless, the definition of what’s right and what’s wrong has been diluted at best and I could claim that, to many, the definition doesn’t exist anymore. Most sociopolitical norms have been redefined within the Egyptian society; people are left confused not able to differentiate between what’s fact and what’s fiction, what could be a conspiracy and what could be just a series of misfortunate events.

A big portion of the Egyptian society nowadays sees a political figure and cannot tell whether s/he is the good, the bad or the ugly! And if they see it (or when they believe they see it), most of the time they jump to conclusions based on social media gossip or rumors.

Serious misfortunes, originating in misrepresentation, frequently flow and spread before they can be dissipated by truth – George Washington

The Freedom of Speech

egypt revolution social media

The concept of freedom of speech is very new to the Egyptian community; it is for sure a very effective weapon and a watchdog against the new government and other entities in Egypt for that matter. The people and media however, are still trying to grasp how serious such weapon is, and unfortunately, in the process some serious damage is inflicted in the society, a single rumor could go viral, could unintentionally (or even intentionally at times) mobilize opposing sides in the streets creating a recipe for a disaster.

We have seen that happening over and over in Egypt in the past year, and all these street gatherings need is one stone or a single angry person to turn into bloodshed.

Don’t get me wrong here, I am all for the freedom of speech, I am all for freedom of press and freedom of conventional and social media, but with such freedom comes responsibility, people will need to watch what they say and what they share; a single irresponsible YouTube video, word in the media, tweet or even a Facebook status update could easily create a massacre.

[box type=”yellow”]To all Egyptians: You have worked hard and have sacrificed a lot for your freedom. Please use that priceless blessing responsibly in order to avoid having it taken from you again.[/box]

Image : CartoonADay.com

A network engineer and a security specialist with a BSc degree in Computer Engineering, MS in Computer Networks, MBA in International Business and MS in Global Management. A member of the National Political Science Honor Society and The International Honor Society for Collegiate Schools of Business. Seinfeld, That '70s Show, Monk and Lost are my favorite TV shows, and Back to the Future, 12 Monkeys and Crash are my favorite movies. I however enjoy activities like biking, golfing and reading, but I spend most of my time behind a computer screen.


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{ 13 comments… add one }
  • Shreya April 22, 2016, 4:55 am

    It is a fact that Facebook played a huge role in organizing people to meet at certain places during the Egyptian revolution, but we have gone over that issue too many times, there are lot more uses to Social Networks than just that.

  • sushant July 12, 2012, 5:56 am

    The only negative aspect as you mentioned is that literally “anything goes viral” whether its a fact or not. Hence creating baseless rumours. People on social networks specially facebook have a tendency to like or share everything that looks to them appealing without investigating the truth behind the news.

    • Mohamed Osam July 12, 2012, 4:38 pm

      That’s unfortunately true. The more off-beat the content is, the more likely readers to share it in social media outlets.

  • Mohammad Abdulmuttaleb March 1, 2012, 4:25 pm

    I really tend to believe that role of social media networks was overestimated to interpret Egypt\’s January 25th events that ended by Mubarak\’s to leave presidency and his ruling party (National Democratic Party) to fall practically and then by court law judgment.I had been using internet actively since 1999 when I was secondary school student.Hence, the three facts (I already shared them on my blog) about role of social media networks in Egyptian revolution are:1-Tunisia\’s Zine Al-Abdine Escape2-Offline Media always wins over Online Media3-Egypt\’s Internet and Facebook Low Penetration Rates

  • rock February 21, 2012, 12:51 pm

    Social Media is going to be one of the biggest tool in almost all aspects of life.It ranges from our religious ,social,moral to even family system.Social Media is the future of the brands and the ambassadors of different multinational organizations.Like Egypt many revolutions are going to come in form of economic changes and political changes.Incredibly well written .Impressed with the way you represent your idea.

  • Ricardus February 9, 2012, 2:02 am

    It’s good to see social media does help in providing a better and brighter nation.

    • Mohamed Osam February 9, 2012, 3:21 am

      True. So far we have seen this happening in many places around the world, Egypt is only an example since I am somewhat familiar with the political situation in there. On the other hand, you can look at the matter from another angle, social media could still be an instrument of instability as well; it all depends on how people use it.

  • Dennis February 8, 2012, 2:52 pm

    Mohamed I see the same thing happening here in America and whats bad about it here is the ones that are suppose to be mindful of the cameras and the possibilities of things getting on social media, don’t care.

    Social media is powerful. You hit the nail right on the head. That’s why the government is now trying to control it as much as they can because they realize it’s putting them at jeopardy..

    I like fact of free speech like you but I just wish people would not believe everything they see and hear but rather go do a little research and then once they find something that sticks, it’s time to let the world know. Not hear and tell everyone..

    I never just throw anything out in social media with it being something I already agree with or have done research on..

    Crazy world we live in man.. Best wishes to you my friend….

    • Mohamed Osam February 9, 2012, 3:15 am

      Exactly my point Dennis. I believe controlling the media is not and will never be the solution, educating people is the right way to go IMO

  • Gautham February 7, 2012, 1:19 pm

    It is a fact that Facebook played a huge role in organizing people to meet at certain places during the Egyptian revolution, but we have gone over that issue too many times, there are lot more uses to Social Networks than just that.

    • Mohamed Osam February 7, 2012, 3:40 pm

      You are missing the point here Gautham. My point is not that Facebook has been used to organize people, my point here is that social media is a 2-edge sword and the past 12 months proved that there are some serious and negative side effects of social media.

  • doug_eike February 7, 2012, 11:08 am

    Your final paragraph is important, so you might want to rewrite it to say something like this:

    To all Egyptians: You have worked hard and have sacrificed a lot for your freedom. Please use that priceless blessing responsibly in order to avoid having it taken from you again.

    • Mohamed Osam February 7, 2012, 3:43 pm

      Thanks Doug, reading it again now, your rephrased sentence definitely sounds better.

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