In chapters 3 and 4 of his book “Revolution 2.0”, Wael Ghonim describes his experience of using a self-created Facebook page to raise awareness and to mobilize and organize support for a cause, in this case, the brutal murder of Egyptian citizen Khaled Said. The police force of Egypt’s corrupt regime had been mercilessly killing citizens all across the country, and Khaled Said’s brutal and unjust slaying was just one of many. Spurred by anger, sadness, and disgust, and in the hopes of actually doing something about the injustice and corruption that were taking place, Ghonim took to Facebook and, quite frankly, was able to do amazing work with it by uniting large amounts of people and bringing huge amounts of support to the cause. The way he went about creating the page Kullena Khaled Said (which means “We are All Khaled Said”) was very smart, and it truly demonstrates the huge potential and power that social media can have with facilitating political and social movements, and with raising awareness about various causes and/or issues. As the anonymous administrator, he intelligently desired to “convey to the page members that [he] was one of them, that [he] was not different in any way.” There was a certain “informality” about the page that, he claims, helped contribute to its huge popularity and that really resonated with its members. It gave them a place to voice their grievances, opinions, and thoughts, and to converse with each other about the situation at hand, and Ghonim claims that he was always encouraging people to participate and contribute to the discussions as much as possible. Because of how corrupt Egypt’s regime and its media were and the “suppression” they cast  on the physical world, this, in turn, “made the virtual world a critical alternative for promoting the cause.” The virtual world gave hundreds of thousands of people a place to educate and express themselves, and to show their open support for the cause. These were things that the physical world was denying them of doing. Thus, social media acted as an extremely powerful medium here. As Ghonim wrote in one of the page’s posts, “Facebook became our means to express our opinions, ambitions, and dreams without pressure from anyone.” Another topic that Ghonim discusses is the issue of breaking the “fear barrier” that many of group’s members, along with many others in general, had. Essentially, this barrier acts as the gap between talk/discussion and action. Eventually, this “fear barrier” was able to be breached for the first time as hundreds of people showed up around the country to the first “Silent Stand” in honor of Khaled Said’s senseless murder and in protest of the refusal of the government to administer justice to the situation. Many photographs of the the first “Silent Stand” were taken and posted online, and this of course worked to encourage more people to get past the barrier of fear that was holding them back, and participate in the following planned events. It was great, and I suppose quite encouraging for me to read about how all of the activity and discussion going on in the virtual world was able to be effectively translated into real world action. Too often (from my personal experience) with social media, there are always a lot of important , meaningful, and significant discussions happening, but these are very rarely able to be converted into real world action. I do believe that social media often works to demobilize people and make them passive participants in real world causes, but reading about Ghonim’s experiences and actions and the huge amount of success he had have definitely changed my mind about this. I feel that it really is a lot about breaking down the “barrier of fear” that rests in all of us, for whatever reasons (and there are many).

Question(s):

1. Do you feel that real world activism and action can be stunted by activism and discussion that takes place social media networks? What do you think is necessary for people’s “barriers of fear” to be depleted or eliminated altogether?  Do you feel that social media networks typically work to reinforce these “barriers”, or to deconstruct them?

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3 responses »

  1. Lucia says:

    The topic of fear is an interesting one because often times those in the position of fearing change are content with where they are, or at least don’t feel the effects of those advocating for change. And that is what if often scary, the fact that these fears are so instilled in people (usually in the middle class, I think) that to get them on the side of the oppressed, at the most basic level, a different type of rhetoric has to be used (as we saw in Ghonim’s case)

    • cvurlumi3815 says:

      I agree with Lucia. Fear is a powerful tool of oppression. In response to your second question I believe as demonstrated by Revolution 2.0 someone putting themselves out there first really helps strike the barrier of fear. I was in a protest this summer and people feared getting arrested but really put themselves out there because there was a massive group. People oftentimes fear being a minority and acting alone but the strength in numbers can really help overcome fear.

  2. rsissung says:

    I feel that many people fear the accountability. Many are afraid of being at the forefront of an issue with a face behind their anonymous click of the mouse. I agree people do become afraid because they feel then they are in the minority. Social networks provide a groundwork that makes you feel like you are less alone.

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