|Column: All your Egypts belong to us|
Friday, 04 February 2011 09:27
There's a wonderful anonymous quote, "Being a good writer is 3% talent, 97% not being distracted by the Internet."
It seems recently that adage can be applied to almost any industry. No matter where you are, the Internet is now finding you. Gone are the days when you had to search for information.
Social media is here, like that annoying aunt who's too friendly for you to be rude to, but insists on imparting her knowledge nonetheless.
At first, it may have seemed that social media belonged to the 'digital native', the 'generation y-er' to the people who chose to 'spk lyk dis'. While I have never partaken in the speaking of the text lingo, I have to plead guilty to the other charges. I am one of those who came of age as the Internet did, to whom it is natural to be constantly connected, wired to the rest of the world.
As one of said Internet generation, I have to point out that it's no longer just us out there. In fact, studies show, the fastest growing segment on Facebook is 55 to 60 year old females.
And did you know that if Facebook was a country it would be the third largest in the world, after India and China?
Why does this matter?
Because something so huge, despite the fact that it is physically situated only in cyberspace, has to have an impact on the world at large. It's easy, if we think about social media as a toy for children and young people, to underestimate its power. Yes, we admit it is powerful when it comes to brand positioning.
You’ve probably heard that before. You’ve probably heard the stats that show people are more likely to follow links placed by their buddies on a choice social network than on a company's very expensive and impeccably designed Web banner. But what of the more serious things in life?
What of government and politics? What of freedom and education?
Media expert and activist Kathryn Montgomery argues that social networks and media stir up the public sphere and allow for a level of political communication and interaction that has never been seen before. The Obama 2008 victory is a perfect illustration, largely attributed to his social media campaign which encouraged people to come together around a common purpose.
As social media may have an influence over who rises to power, it can also topple empires. The fall of the Estrada regime in the Philippines came about after the assembly of many 'smart mobs' of people protesting, organised in chief through social networking.
And in the recent unrest in Egypt, even though Twitter was the first to be clamped down on, when all other voices were silenced, social media was the first to break through. Google and Twitter teamed up to provide a 'saynow' service that allows Egyptians to phone in Tweets to Google. Perhaps aunty Social Media is not so friendly after all.
The ITU is arguing that the Internet should be a human right. If this were to happen, if the Hosni Mubaraks of the world had no way of switching it off without dire consequences, if the Great Firewall of China could not exist, perhaps the world would be a different place?
It's food for thought.
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