The Social Media Revolution


Image from westsidevelocity.com

Image from westsidevelocity.com

The advent of social media has served as one of the largest revolutions that have ever befallen human civilization. It has greatly changed the way we interact with others, how we can influence politics and how different societies can connect with one another like never before.

While social media has ushered new cultural norms such as selfies and hashtags, its effect on how people communicate different ideas and speak out, either for or against, modern issues is its most profound accomplishment.

While physical protests have long served as the primary method for citizens of any nation to express dissent towards their governing body, the platform that social media provides for free speech has given global citizens a new way to protest.

Following President Obama’s brief campaign to garner support for utilizing military force in Syria, the American populace responded feverishly with a nearly unanimous anti-war cry. Instead of protesting and picketing in the streets as we have seen so many times for other military conflicts, notably Iraq and Vietnam, American citizens tweeted and posted their dissent for the entire world to see.

The ease of communication offered by Twitter and Facebook, and a collective user base of roughly one billion, made this widely held sentiment impossible to ignore. The people spoke, and the government had no choice but to listen.

The Commander in Chief of the United State Military, the supposed most powerful man in the world, quickly backed away from his pro-war rhetoric and was forced to settle for a diplomatic agreement that required Syria to forfeit their chemical weapons in lieu of America using military assets to attack the Assad Regime.

This agreement has since gone largely ignored by both the Syrian government and Russia, who helped to broker the deal, and was most likely little more then an attempt to save face by the Obama administration.

While social media has aided American citizens in reeling in their government, it has also helped citizens of other nations, such as Libya, to literally overthrow their governments.

As chaos and violent rebellion rolled across the Middle East during the beginnings of the Arab Spring revolts, Twitter was at the center of these uprisings. Rebels in Libyan used Twitter as an effective communication tool to organize attacks and maintain cohesion amongst their revolution.

In countries experiencing large-scale protest such as Egypt and Turkey, discourse of dissent ran amok on Twitter and Facebook.

For hundreds of years in the Middle East, the local café has served as the center for rebellion as it been a convenient meeting place for such conversations to take place. Knowing this, many oppressive rulers sought to shut down these coffee shops in the hope of quelling such opposition.

While citizens speaking out against oppression remains ever prevalent, the conversation has simply moved to another medium. Instead of calling for the overthrow of a tyrant in a café, the people who seek do to so now make that call on Twitter and Facebook.

This has allowed for these messages to spread even farther and considerably faster than ever before and the end result is an entire region of the globe rising against their governments in the span of a few months.

Similar enough to the cafés, several governments have sought to shut down Twitter in order to quell opposition. Both Egypt and Turkey banned the site in a last ditch attempt to maintain control.

Despite these ruling powers’ efforts, discussion by those who seek to oust them from power will persist as the internet, and social media, is simply too easy to access, to use and to communicate through for the sites to ever successfully be shut down.

Even more important than its role in connecting citizens of the same nation to one another, social media has managed to connect citizens of varying nations all over the globe.

Following the Boston Marathon Bombing, rebels of the Free Syrian Army posted a photo on Twitter that soon went viral. In the photo, they were holding a banner that stated they offered their condolences to the people of Boston. Soon thereafter, people of Boston replied with a photo of a similar banner wishing for safety and peace for Syrians.

Prior to the existence of social media, this interaction would never have been possible. The ability to so readily communicate with other parts of the world has enabled the humanization of people from foreign and distant lands. The basic and innate human desire to live in freedom and safety is a uniting factor amongst citizens of every country, be it Egypt, or Syria, or the USA. It has been social media that has allowed for this unity to become ever prevalent.

No longer can political leaders or talking heads of the mainstream media successfully vilify an entire nation. While they may seek to disparage another country, the easily viewable tweets and posts from the citizens of that foreign nation, who disparage their own government, show the rest of the world that while those in power may be a problem, the entire nation cannot to be considered an enemy.

Ultimately, in allowing the people of the world to communicate and come closer together, they will collectively distance themselves from the governments of their nations. The attacks on Twitter show that desperate governments fear social media, as it is a powerful enabler of social discourse.

Websites such as Twitter and Facebook have created an international café. This cafe can never be truly stopped or shutdown and have, and will continue to do so, subverted the slanted messages of governments as people can communicate more easily than ever before.

These endeavors that started with the purpose of merely offering another social outlet will undoubtedly be regarded in the pages of history of the most effective tools of revolution and rebellion that mankind has yet seen.

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