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Social Media - Changing The World One Click At A Time

Hi everyone! I wrote this piece last year. I'm posting it now in honor of the 2nd anniversary of the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 and also for the countless lives lost while striving towards something worth dying for: a better life.
 
SOCIAL MEDIA
CHANGING THE WORLD ONE CLICK AT A TIME
 
Tahrir Square, Egypt during the Egyptian Revolution of 2011.
On January 4, 2011, Mohamed Bouazizi died from self-inflicted injuries after he had drenched himself in petrol and set himself on fire two weeks earlier. Why would any person do this? Mohamed Bouazizi was a 26-year-old man from Tunisia who lived in a country with high unemployment and a government that many locals regarded as corrupt and authoritarian. He lived his life like the majority of Tunisians -- just trying to make ends meet. This all changed when he was slapped and spat on by a local policewoman for operating an unlicensed fruit and vegetable cart. He was humiliated and decided to set himself alight.

Bouazizi's death caused an outrage. During this period of rising anger, Wikileaks released a document that revealed a US ambassador’s view of the Tunisian government as ‘corrupt’. It was confirmation of what Tunisians had already suspected, but this, combined with Mohamed Bouazizi’s death, was a potent mix that would lead to revolution. 

On January 14, 2011, ten days after Bouazizi’s death and countless protests, Tunisia’s President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali officially resigned. This wasn't just another event to be added to the history books -- it was a defining moment for social media.

THE POWER OF SOCIAL MEDIA

Many now attribute the speediness and effectiveness of the Tunisian Revolution and the Arab Spring revolutions that followed to two websites in particular: Twitter and Facebook. These social networks made it easier for people to connect with each other and to spread information that in many instances was censored by their government.

Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord's Resistance Army.
Social media can also be used to raise awareness about campaigns. In the case of charity organisation, Invisible Children, their video, ‘Kony 2012,’ urged viewers to apply more pressure on the US government to capture international war criminal Joseph Kony. It became one of the biggest viral videos ever because of Twitter and Facebook. 

Statistics from the video’s Youtube page revealed that over 20 million views of the video resulted from being shared on Facebook alone. Twitter added another 1.3 million views and the video currently has almost 100 million views. These numbers aren't record-breaking for an online video, so what makes the Kony video so special? The majority of the views were generated within a week. It demonstrated the power of social media to not only reach people far and wide but also in the quickest way possible. 

Anyone with a social campaign could go to bed before midnight and hope their efforts might change the world -- but with the aid of Twitter and Facebook -- it can become a reality by sunrise.

THE GLOBAL REACH OF SOCIAL MEDIA

People all around the world are using social media to raise awareness about all kinds of issues. One recent example was the global ‘Occupy’ movement that protested against economic inequality and corporate greed. An ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protest in New York received international attention not just for the message of the movement but also for the police brutality that occurred. 

Images and videos of peaceful protestors being pepper-sprayed and violently thrown to the ground by police officers quickly spread across the Internet. This created sympathy for the movement, which led to an international day of protest on October 15, 2011 where 82 countries participated by staging protests. This worldwide effort could not have happened so easily without the aid of Twitter and Facebook.
Protestors being violently evicted at an Occupy site in Melbourne, Australia.
Many of the Occupy protest sites set up permanent camps where they were later brutally forced out by local law enforcement. Many people witnessed the police brutality first-hand, like Kevin from Melbourne, Australia: 'I found myself in the front line. I was with an actor friend. We were all there with linked arms with other people. My friend was punched in the chest by a policeman. A girl next to him complained, saying "He wasn’t doing anything." Next thing she was punched in the throat and head.' 

News of the brutal evictions quickly made its way online where Occupy organizers countered the police effort by directing protestors to different locations to avoid having the protest stopped dead in its tracks. Twitter and Facebook allowed the momentum of the movement to continue without disruption.

The most alarming aspect of these protests was the lack of coverage in mainstream media while it happened. The first Occupy protest occurred on September 17, 2011 in New York’s Wall Street where so many people participated that roads became blocked. Finding information on these protests was only available through Twitter and Facebook and some alternative media websites because not one mainstream news source was reporting it.

Keith Olbermann, political commentator.
Keith Olbermann, former host of Countdown with Keith Olbermann on the MSNBC channel was the first mainstream media journalist to question why there was so little coverage. He revealed that even though the protests had been ongoing for five straight days, the only mention of it was ‘one blurb in a free newspaper in Manhattan and a column in the Toronto Star.’

This media blackout also occurred again when New York police staged a surprise raid on November 15, 2011 to evict protestors from their camps. Reporters who were present voiced their frustration on Twitter using the hashtag #mediablackout. One reporter also said he was told all reporters had to stay in a ‘press pen’ and that police were ignoring and even confiscating press passes. Thankfully, users of social media posted updates on these events that would otherwise be totally ignored.

THE IMPACT OF SOCIAL MEDIA

Violent confrontations with law enforcement and media blackouts would not be unusual in a corrupt country with a ruling dictator, but the fact it happened in democratic western countries like the US and Australia makes one ponder -- do we really live in a society free of censorship? If the media isn't reporting on these history-defining social movements then the question of who controls the news and information we receive has to be seriously explored.

Rupert Murdoch, billionaire media mogul.
In August 2012, media mogul Rupert Murdoch faced questions at the Royal Courts of Justice in London where he was asked whether he had influenced British politics after it was revealed he had several private, closed-door meetings with senior British politicians. 

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation had also been under fire after the release of a 163-page dossier of emails detailing contacts between Jeremy Hunt, UK Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport and senior News Corporation executive Frederic Michel. Jeremy Hunt was asked to resign because of claims he secretly supported News Corporation’s bid to takeover British broadcaster BSkyB, which if successful would've allowed Murdoch more control of the media

Many petitions spread online throughout social media to try and stop Murdoch’s effort for a total monopoly on the media, including activist website Avaaz.org receiving an incredible 370,000 signatures for their petition

The Internet is a powerful tool, but more precisely -- it's social media websites like Twitter, Facebook and many more that are helping to shape our world for the better.

Patrick Dixon, author and futurist.
Patrick Dixon, an author and futurist who is considered one of the most influential thinkers alive sums up the impact of social media by declaring: ‘the digital age is transforming the way individual citizens think about their government. It is putting power from governments and dictators into the hands of ordinary people and our world will never be the same.’

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Until next time, something wonderful awaits!

Social Media - Changing The World One Click At A Time Reviewed by Tuan Ho on 18:56 Rating: 5
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