Like many others, I haven’t been able to take my eyes off what is happening in Egypt.
Before the country made many news headlines, Egyptian youth circulated Facebook messages, informing each other of the day of anger to take place on Jan. 25.
A day turned into a week of protests and soon enough, what many are calling a revolution was born.
While there is no question the events in Egypt couldn’t have been as well organized (ie, spread faster) without social media networks like Facebook and Twitter, I think it’s too soon to credit social media for the revolution. I feel like this revolution was driven by people and whether it was by Facebook or by person-to-person contact, word would have spread.
But I think the situation in Egypt has still showed us the importance of these tools and how much we value using them freely. The Western world seemed horrified when Egypt effectively shut the internet off. Around the same time, when the internet was restored in Egypt, news junkies from the Western world started streaming Al-Jazeera English, following detained reporters on Twitter and looking at pictures on The Globe and Mail’s website.
With a situation like the one we’re seeing in Egypt, daily news just doesn’t suffice anymore. I want to know what’s going on now and I want to see it now, more than with any other news story.
As for where I’ve gotten my news during the crisis, Twitter has been a great source. I can keep up with what individual journalists, news media outlets and average people are saying all in one place on Twitter. I haven’t watched it recently, but I found myself turning to Al-Jazeera English’s online stream when the situation first started. I’ve also been following CBC and the Globe & Mail’s reporting on the ground.
Last week, many holding a camera were detained, threatened and bullied in Tahrir Square and elsewhere in Cairo. But the aggressors couldn’t intimidate anyone with a cell phone, a voice recorder, a pen, a voice. The Egyptian government tried to silencing the truth by turning the internet off. It didn’t work. They tried intimidation – but the journalists were relentless. With social media, there’s more voices in the fray, but that also means it’s impossible to quiet everyone down. I don’t necessarily see this as a bad thing.