*Have you seen coverage of civil and social unrest taking place in Egypt?
Undoubtedly you have.
When I asked my son that same question, he said, “Yes I saw it all over the internet mom. The reports and video are wild. Those protesters are serious about changing their government.”
Indeed they are serious. What’s happening in Egypt is historic.
But what’s wild is how my son learned about what’s happening in Egypt. While my eyes have been glued to CNN, MSNBC and checking in to the dreaded FOX network from time to time to see what the right is yammering about, my son’s eyes have been trained on his laptop while his fingers click away on various links about the chaos in Cairo.
“I get all my news from the internet,” said my son. “That way I can control what I want to know and what sources I get it from.”
“I don’t want news that’s spoon feed to me or news that TV exec decide I need to know,” he continued adding that network news is sanctioned news and he’s just not with that. Freedom is what it’s about he emphasized.
OMG (that’s oh my God for those on the left of the digital divide) I guess on some level I’ve always known that but to have someone under the age of thirty actually articulate that made it real and right in my face.
The freedom my son spoke about is what is at the center of the unrest in Egypt. The face of those are revolting against the 30-year autocracy weren’t even born when President Hosni Mubarak came to power. In fact, the median age in Egypt is 24.
Yet this is a generation that has grown up digitally. A world of information and images are at the touch of their finger tips. And they can summons up information or disseminate missives as they command. The power invested in the internet has empowered them exponentially and heuristically.
Perhaps it’s why the revolt was imminent. By nature and nurture young people typically want more out of their lives than their parents and caregivers. It’s not unusual for them to be zealous in their pursuit of something more. But when young, educated Egyptians have access to a bold new world brought to them on their computers and smart phones, their vantage point changes and so do their expectations and subsequently their demands. Poverty, inflation, corruption, unemployment and repression are conditions they just don’t want to accept anymore because that’s the way it’s always been. They’ve seen a different world because of technology. Despite the ideology culture has tried to infused, their eyes have seen the glory capitalism, entrepreneurialism, enfranchisement, democracy, music video and the list goes on and on.
One comment I can’t forget was made by opposition leader Mohamed Elbaradei when he said, “Egypt needs to catch up with the rest of the world and be free and democratic.”
While the entire world is not free and democratic, it is clear the youth of the movement believe that their way of life is draconian. Freedom is the key to their future and the door to the endless possibilities they have seen first hand from access to the internet and advances in technology.
The confluence of social unrest and social media was the perfect storm for the young protesters to take their revolt to the world stage. While their revolution was not televised by Egyptian television, it was tweeted, posted, uploaded, blogged and texted. The unedited, raw boots on the ground accounts has swayed public opinion and spellbound the world so much so that at one point the Egyptian government shut down the internet to silence their voices.. The reports and images that did get out spread through the internet like a computer virus. The role of social media not only amplified what was going on but it also galvanized organizers and protesters. It ultimately contributed to President Mubarak’s decision not to run for election in the fall.
By now I think we understand how central social media is to advancing civilization. By now we see how social media can impact every aspect of lives and influence social change.
Change is indeed in the air for Egypt. My son’s “Egyptian contemporaries” are at the center of igniting that change with their tweets and Skype reports. The in violence in Egypt continues to subsist along with the chaos. The journey for peace and democracy will be an arduous one. After the dust settles it will be interesting to see what role the youth perspective will play in forging a new government and how social media will co-exist in the new regime after its role in bring down the old one.
In the meantime, I will follow my son’s queue and expand my social media repertoire. It’s no longer an option – it’s a necessity. It’s time to fish were the fish are. Maybe it’s time for you to pick up your pole too.
(If you have comments about Veronica’s View, email them to [email protected])