The short answer is yes, the revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa would have happened without Social Media. Certain aspects or events were resultant of social media activity from those in the regions, but the whole scope of the movements were not inexplicably linked to social media. As Charles Trew’s article stated. “This social media ‘revolution’ was really about how the west experienced events in Egypt.”
That wasn’t necessarily the way I would have answered before Dr. Jeff Johnson clued our class into the multifaceted machinery behind the Arab Spring. The assumption of many in America is that this was the so-called Twitter Revolution. While Twitter did play a role in broadcasting a portion of the events, Facebook provided many the opportunity for mobilization, and thus played a more major role in the happenings.
There are very few traditional reporters in Syria. Many of these war-torn countries have to rely on citizen journalism. It’s especially more successful in economic distressed areas. With the combination of corruption and needs not being met, these conditions were ripe for citizen journalists to broadcast information by whatever means were possible. It became a form of journalism, and in some cases supplanted it, since in Syria all media is controlled.
Youtube was key, as were the many livestreamed videos, such as Rami al-Sayed, who documented the fighting by recording videos. They weren’t always neutral and couldn’t always be verified, but his videos and those from others provided something close to what Bob Dylan mentioned to an annoyed Time Magazine reporter as the epitome of what truth is: that it is simply a plain picture. But sometimes the pictures or videos or stories invite disasters, such as the one that befell badass reporter Marie Colvin, who had already lost an eye in Bosnia. Her great risk came as she reported in Syria, and the opposition center with various reporters was held in one place. But once the signals were found and maintained as consistent, they put a rocket there and obliterated the place.
This article adds depth to assumptions many people have on the effects of social media — especially Facebook — on the level of happiness of its users. I like how the article drew from various studies instead of picking and choosing anecdotes from one study to push forward a particular idea. It’s an inquiry that deserves to be nuanced, and while it will never be definitive, the more rigorous the methodology, the better the results(obviously).
I agreed with the assessment, “the Internet seemed to make [Facebook users] feel more alienated” — of course this is based on my own feelings and use of the platform. As the article poignantly states, there is the, “social-psychology phenomena of social comparison. It was further exacerbated by a general similarity of people’s social networks to themselves: because the point of comparison is like-minded peers, learning about the achievements of others hits even harder.” I have more than 1000 friends on Facebook, and many of them are doing great things, whether it is traveling often, working on and releasing creative projects, attending concerts, growing their families, etc.
It’s very easy to let jealousy override regular feelings. Many times it’s baseless — I do my own traveling and projects. Perhaps I am the cause for another person’s jealousy. It’s a vicious cycle, if you allow it. It’s not as if a person posts everything they do — there will always be a certain level of curated care. Most people present their best self on social media. I certainly do. Therefore it’s not a legitimate playground in which to compare lives. Or at least it’s not a fair one.
My own examples with Facebook and personal relationships have been pretty stark at times. During the initial Obama election, many family members, friends, and people I used to attend church with accused me of some sort of Dark Side-type alignment based on links and comments I would post on my wall and those of others. Basically, since I voted Obama and thought Prop 8 was terrible, I was assailed against constantly, and deleted as a friend quite often, something that still happens to a lesser extent today. At times it bugged me quite a bit, not because I needed them as a friend online, but because it also effects some in-person relationships. I would often react to it by going into a reclusive hermitism, almost a petition against things like family reunions or gatherings, even though most of them didn’t deserve my cold shoulder. I have overcome that reaction by now, but it used to be pretty heavy at times. If others didn’t enjoy my presence or respect the way I thought about things, then I didn’t need them to see me in person.
Another thing related in the article, “Facebook could even cause problems in relationships, by increasing feelings of jealousy,” has happened to me, and is probably a frequent occurrence for others. I’ve had significant others delete me on Facebook or Twitter after a breakup or major argument. It’s happened at least a handful of times, and some have even continued the blackout to this day. It hasn’t always been one-sided — I have instigated it myself on a few occasions. I’m not sure if it is meant as a statement, or if it is just to avoid the nostalgia, or if it is to avoid seeing them have fun. It’s probably all of those things and more.
All of these things, as the article states, are seemingly recipes for sadness. But we all love the ingredients and mixers far too much to alter the course.