Twitter, Facebook, and other web apps as instruments of political and social change

The debate over the usefulness of Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube (and many other internet services) is being argued in regard to steering and consummating political and social change at ground zero. The sweeping change in hearts and minds across the Arab world have fueled these debates – especially the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak, but also the events in Bahrain, Iran, Jordan, Libya, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, UAE, Yemen, and beyond.

No well informed opinion can deny that humanity’s struggle for freedom and dignity has received more attention now than ever before. The unfolding drama and embrace of change have never captured the imagination and hearts of so many of the world’s population as the recent unprecedented changes in the Arab world.

Never before have so many experienced true revolution directly by picture, video, text message and blog post. Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube (among other social media) made this possible. And let us not forget that it was the English language which was instrumental to the sharing of information, inspiration, insight, sympathy, anguish, hope, and, yes, outrage.

I became aware of the January 25th protest in Egypt through Twitter. Like tens of thousands of others on Twitter, I became aware of the protest days before it was a top story in the mainstream media. Like hundreds of thousands of others on Twitter and Facebook, I knew the tragic story of Khaled Said and I wept to see the uncensored picture of his smashed up face a week before the mainstream media would begin to share that with the world.

With millions of others, unbid tears fell when I saw amateur video of Khaled Said’s mother celebrating the resignation of Hosni Mubarak in her apartment. She clutched a small pillow to her breast – a pillow upon which her son’s picture was sewn.

I am not alone in my sympathy for Khaled Said’s mother. Nor am I alone in my outrage against the corruption that exists in Egypt, Romania or elsewhere. And I am not alone in wanting to do something to make this a better world.

In fact, I am now certain that those who care outnumber those who do not care. The internet has illuminated common aspirations and expectations that transcend cultures, nationalities, borders, politics, religions, and languages. Freedom is universal – at least in the heart and imagination of the human person.

Social media, citizen journalism and blogging have become essential to democracy and freedom – just as television, radio, newspapers and the printing press were (and still are) necessary. Social media, citizen journalism and blogging are essential because raw drama is shared between human hearts, not filtered and reduced to sound bites by talking heads in a network studio far from the action. Some will still attempt to interpret another’s tweet, blog or post, but for the first time in history, we have access to all that’s being said, and we can make an informed choice about whom to believe.

I’m not ashamed to admit to those awkward sounds that came from my throat as I tried to hold back the outpouring of emotion as I watched Kaled Said’s mother clutch that pillow. As philosopher and author of the Narnia Chronicles, C.S. Lewis would put it, a man that cannot anguish over the tragedy and injustice of a mother who has lost her son for no good reason, is not a man. And if the world is filled with so-called men who have no capacity for profound emotion, the world shall soon be lost.

Thanks in part to the internet, Twitter, Facebook, etc. the world will not be lost for lack of empathy, compassion and profound emotion.

Fortunately for us, the Arab world has reminded us all that we too still have hearts, an imagination for what better world might be, and a common will to deconstruct the all-too-many petty fiefdoms of “me”. Together, we can remake this fragmented world into ONE beautiful world of we.

The birth pangs of great change have begun. We are living in interesting times. Ginsburg, Kerouac, and Dylan – eat your hearts out, you unlucky, premature prophets. For now is when the Times They Are a-Changin.

Stan Faryna
11 March 2011
Bucharest, Romania

If you’d like to connect with me, follow @Faryna and tweet me up on Twitter:


About Stan Faryna

Mr. Faryna is the founder and co-founder of several technology, design and communication companies in the United States and Europe including Faryna & Associates, Inc., Halo Interactive, and others.

Stan Faryna served as a Global Voices author and translator. Global Voices is a non-profit global citizens’ media project founded at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, a research think-tank focused on the Internet’s impact on society.

His political, scholarly, social and technical opinions have appeared in The Chicago DefenderJurnalul NationalThe Washington TimesSagarSaptamana FinanciaraSocial Justice Review, and other publications.

Mr. Faryna also served as editor-in-chief of Black and Right (Praeger Press, 1996), a landmark collection of socio-political essays by important American thinkers including U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.


Copyright 1996 to 2012 by Stan Faryna.

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If you want to share my content with your own audience, you may quote a brief excerpt, if and only if, you provide proper attribution (Source: The unofficial blog of Stan Faryna) with a direct link to the source. Generally speaking, as long as you are not acting as an agent or on behalf of a corporation or institution, I am not interested in any payment for the quotation or use of a complete article. Nevertheless, you may not republish or translate the entire article without my written permission. Send your request for permission via Facebook. Or tweet me up me on Twitter.


One Response to Twitter, Facebook, and other web apps as instruments of political and social change

  1. […] I’ve written about corruption, false leadership, the lack of Arab leadership, protest, servant leaders, social media as an instrument of social and political change, etc. […]

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