Battleground facebook: The right way to discuss the possibilities of mass movement

How effective facebook is?

My friend, a fellow social media skeptic, asked me, “What social media has brought to this world? Answer: “Social media has facilitated if not brought revolution to Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and many more Middle East countries who knows may be …. .”

If any amongst us had doubts about the impacts of social media networks such as facebook and twitter, they were most certainly removed after following the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions unfold on facebook pages, twitter updates and blog posts of Egyptians and Tunisians.

To further substantiate social media’s credentials as the peoples’ news network that brings forth the people’s perspective devoid of governments’ agenda, I can tell you this; some condemned it especially facebook, some dictators like in Iran allegedly said they wanted to ban it and all those hardliners of course banned it. For over a month till the ouster of Hosni Mubarak I found myself drawn into the romanticism, passion and hope that only a true peoples’ revolution can inspire.

I followed facebook and twitter phenomenal updates and posts of the Egyptian revolution through its live streaming on internet from embedded journalists of different news networks reporting live from the ground. Alongside, I kept a close watch on the coverage by western mainstream channels I had access to, namely BBC and CNN and for pure comparison reasons Ethiopian Television.

The effectiveness of social media networks such as the facebook and twitter only becomes evident when users report the movement such as the Egyptian revolution that is as fluid, volatile, and populist, with their own angles and perspectives. What a specific facebook post or twitter updates chooses to reinforce, what they choose to downplay, the language they frame it in and the approach they adopt has huge implications on the opinions the millions of facebook users or twitter followers  detached from the ground reality will formulate.

Diverse angles, diverse content

Every now and then when I log on to facebook, I see messages or arguments posted or links shared by different members of groups such as Yedil Qen የ ድል ቀን which could be summed up as how Ethiopian can adapt Egyptian style revolution or instigating people to such kind of  revolution.

Unless one is a kindergartner, her brain processes words as fast as her eyes see them. Every time someone joins these groups, I automatically end up reading the possibility of revolutions in Ethiopian context, which most supporters of the current regime would otherwise try to avoid it. A cadre friend of mine told me that he finds himself clenching his fists with frustration. He believes joining such groups to find out who are active participants in the groups is only propagating them. He said he is tired of posting arguments which argues against those who proposes revolutionary ideas.

I’m impressed by those pages as much as anyone else is. But for me to trying to mobilize our entire country for a revolution through random facebook users is almost as futile as the page itself. I say futile because no facebook page is growing as fast as the Egyptians facebook pages or most subscribers to the pages are Ethiopians residing abroad.

Arguing peacefully

When one group member tries to be as rational as possible regarding the possibilities of revolution some group members might dub him/her as a cadre and some hardliners might even start campaign deliberately designed to spread a buzz by touting the words “Leave us alone!  You are deliberately making us coward! Is your job to threaten us?” and others the Egyptians didn’t dub each other on facebook pages as cadres or supporter of Mubarak regime  or shout slogans on their pages as we sometimes do in our facebook pages. They argued peacefully without tarnishing each other with different tags. Rather they try to argue in a civilized manner so that the whole public will get rid of unnecessary bias and fear.

Yelling, tarnishing and dubbing isn’t argument

Maybe we’re used to raising our voices to get what we want. Spoiled children get what they want at home by throwing a fit, but that doesn’t work in the classroom. On our facebook pages and groups, yelling or tarnishing or dubbing people do not solve problems. I know there is a trend even in our schools the kid that talk louder and get angrier or making fun of others during debate competitions are the ones that win, but this kind of arguments to get what we want will never work on facebook especially when dealing with people from different walks of life discussing some serious issues like revolutions.

People who share their arguments in an offensive manner not only fail to realize that what they’re doing annoys others; they are also helping the real cadres to divide the arguments along many lines. By all means try to make your points in a manner which foster critical thinking. I’m hoping the sharers of expletives against the possibilities of revolutionary ideas on facebook do the same. What do you think?

1 Comment

  1. The ability to share information and dialogue within that information is very powerful for citizens and its leaders alike. Facebook has proven itself to be a very useful tool in terms of information amongst the nations and particularly among the citizens.

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