Angry students, social media: The perfect storm for revolution

Angry students, social media: The perfect storm for revolution

Summary: Twitter and social media alone cannot force a revolution in a country frought with oppression and social reform. The events in Egypt form the perfect storm.


2011 is the year where protests, demonstrations and ultimately revolution was brought to two Middle Eastern and North African countries, namely Tunisia and Egypt. The implications of such will resonate throughout not only the rest of the Gulf and the southern Mediterranean, but for Western democracies and her allies too.

The citizens of Tunisia revolted, and former president Ben Ali was forced into exile. The continuing developments in Egypt suggest a similar path, with further protests planned and a sympathetic military seemingly siding with the citizens.

This year, social media like Facebook and Twitter proved to be a force of change. Whether this force is for short term hardship or long term social reform remains unclear. Nevertheless, the force, strength and potency for social media used by ordinary members of society to bring about extreme, provoking change has tremendous potential.

But social media cannot lead on its own to a revolution, an overthrowing of authority or a callous coup d'état.

As seen in Tunisia and Egypt alike, critical mass is attained by a combination of intellectually minded students, an innate use of a powerful enabling technology to the wider world, and the will and inclination of ordinary, oppressed people.

Only through these catalysts can a perfect storm brew to bring about widespread political and social change. The users of Twitter cannot do this solely on their own.

As the Generation Y are the most densely populated user demographic for social media, this force lays in the very hands of every person under the age of 30 to bring about changes they see as necessary. Ordinary people, including the young, forgotten minority have strength and great power at their hands. And for the most part, it only took two revolutions to prove it.

The instability in Egypt is a matter for great concern for the Western allied nations, as both the United States and the United Kingdom see Egypt as a leader in diplomacy in the Middle East and North Africa.

These demonstrations serve as powerful reminder that not only oppressive regimes are at risk of forceful change, and that no other nation is one hundred percent infallible to the strength of their own people.

Today, one million people on the streets of Egypt will be led in mobile silence, with the Egyptian government turning off all cell networks.

But this will simply provoke already twisted tensions, and only further spur on the cause of the protesters.

Twitter is a force for ordinary citizens to hold to account their governments through unconventional democratic means. As a global service, it concentrates the focus of matters from within a country to the wider world, broadcasting raw and unfettered information and footage to the world outside of its borders.

And as seen in the past week, even with Internet access being turned off and text messaging restricted, people will always find a way around a problem, even if it results in turning to low-tech solutions.

If the Western war on terror had never begun, regardless of the September 11th terrorist attacks on New York - a sentence I never thought I would write, would the Middle Eastern 'Twitter revolution' have been inevitable? Would Saddam have been overthrown by his own people? Could Iran, Syria, and other 'axis of evil' nations fall into the same hands?

It can not be said that Twitter of its own volition, with vast numbers of people using the service, caused the downfall of governments. Twitter is a tool, designed to spread short bursts of information to a vast world of people.

Topics: Social Enterprise, CXO

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Networking for change, social media in the Middle East and North Africa

    ?There?s nothing deterministic about these tools ? Gutenberg?s press, or fax machines or Facebook. They can be used to promote human rights or to undermine human rights.?
  • Angry students Social media...yeah i can see...

    ...the revolution...might be able to muster enough outrage to get your Starbucks coffee prices reduced, that's about it.
  • Would Saddam have been overthrown by his own people?

    ''Would Saddam have been overthrown by his own people?''

    No... Mubarak is a soft dictator compared to Saddam. Remember the whole nerve gas thing? If Mubarak had a stronger grip on his military he could have squashed the protesters easily. Twitter does not stop a single machine gun from dispersing a crowd.

    I dont even think that Mubarak will be gone before the end of the year. We dont want a power vacuum in such an important country, Tunisia, who cares but not Egypt. Most likely Mubarak will cut a deal with the west. We can give him a safe heaven in exchange of organizing real elections and getting out of there once its done.
    Tommy S.
  • RE: Angry students, social media: The perfect storm for revolution

    And exactly how many people in the streets were using any type of "social networking" to communicate what they were doing?
  • RE: Angry students, social media: The perfect storm for revolution

    Once again, your communication is spotty, your English is poor. You are arguing a point, but choosing the wrong words. You call social media a "force of change", but are actually arguing tha it is merely an agent of change (which it is).

    You also completely neglect the (important and related) fact that in the countries in question, young people (under 30) are a very large proportion of the population - much larger than the same demographic in Western nations.

    Overall, your writing has the quality of a mid-grade high-school student. Please take some writing courses and apply the results to your blogs. It is actually hard in many cases to get at the point you are trying to make (if in fact you are making any points).
  • RE: Angry students, social media: The perfect storm for revolution

    Interesting what non-thinking people are supposed to be sucked into things they didn't mean. The users are using toys but toys are, as already shown, a never-ending growth of updaes and upgrades for the latest toy! They seem like real MS followers the way they operate but at the toy level.
  • Good Idea, Zack

    Try tweeting about your next beef and see if anything gets done about it.
  • RE: Angry students, social media: The perfect storm for revolution

    As we're finding out, this isn't a perfect storm. It's a manufactured storm, years in the making, instigated and co-opted by the Moslem Brotherhoods and other radical moslems (who are borrowing the communist tactics used in such places as S. Vietnam...)
  • "Intellectually minded students"? Oh, give me a break!

    Students and the young, are the least qualified to run a revolution, because, they're the most clueless and least knowledgeable, and the group with the least amount of experience or wisdom in any population or country. And, they're the group that is most easily "led", meaning that they're the group which is the least analytical about the future repercussions of their actions. They're the group that is targeted the most by the leaders of an evil ideology, because, those "leaders" know that the young students are the ones that can be most easily riled into protests and action, and the group that doesn't have the experience that comes with age for the asking of the tough questions.<br><br>Everybody goes through that period of being "young, dumb, and idealistic", and at that age is when teachers and politicians want to "embed" their ideology and thought process into those heads. It's called: indoctrination. Catch them when they're young, because with experience and knowledge and wisdom and careers and family, those people won't be available to put into effect the vision of those that want to execute their evil deeds; but there is always a new set of "young, dumb and idealistic" group that can be molded for the purposes that suit those so-called "revolutionary leaders". <br><br>Bill Ayers, Bernadine Dohrn, where are you?
    • good points by adornoe

      Excellent points dude! Let me add this...
      When everyone goes out into the streets to start their Twitter revolutions, they should have a new constitution already drawn up, declarations of WHAT will CHANGE now, how/when elections are to be formed, who CAN NOT participate in the new elections, and how/when JUSTICE will be apportioned to those guilty of TREASON.
  • ...frought...?

    Did ZD lay off all their good editors?