Sunday, February 13, 2011

Egyptians are the heroes — not Facebook or Twitter

Today, a friend said, “Twitter and Facebook brought Egypt's Mubarak dictatorship to its knees.” An article I read opened with “Social networking played a crucial role in Egypt's revolution.” Another stated, “It is the first major revolution that was initiated and coordinated using social networks (most notably Twitter and Facebook).”

No question about it, social networking played a role in getting the news out to the world. Social networks, blogs, cellular phones and text messaging, contributed to alerting demonstrators of hotspots and coordinating events by communicating place and time of demonstrations. And, all of this was instrumental in gaining international support for their cause. But we should not neither overplay nor downplay their importance. Other than those who were on the frontlines, social network users and bloggers were not on the street amongst the fury and anarchy. They took no risks. They only informed the outside world of what was happening on the street inside of Egypt.

Social networkers and bloggers became cheerleaders and fans, but cheerleaders and fans do not win ballgames. The athletes on the field or on the court win the games for their fans. Some of us express thoughtless praise and adulation, particularly in the case of the social networking hyperbole. Social networking did not bring the “Mubarak dictatorship to its knees”; it played a role, but arguably not a “crucial role,” and it was, “coordinated – yes, but certainly not initiated by these networks.

It’s vital that the world give the Egyptians themselves the credit for their success in forcing Mubarak to step down. They are the ones that deserve praise. They are the ones who put themselves in the line of fire. They are the ones that have to live with the consequences of their actions, hopefully it will be beneficial and viable. However, they would have accomplished this victory without Twitter or Facebook.

Egyptians and activist like Wael Ghonim, Head of Marketing of Google Middle East and North Africa, and others, who contributed to bringing people, especially young people, into the streets for those momentous protests of January 25, 2011, are the heroes,. These folks were risking their lives, jobs, imprisonment and possibly torture to bring into being a better life for all Egyptians.

Samuel Goldsmith, Twitter, Facebook amplified street protests in Egypt, allowing for growth of community support,

John Palfrey, Twitter and Facebook, step up: Egypt protests raise bar on corporate responsibility,

Jeff Tomczek, Enough with the fluff: Meaningless updates on Facebook, Twitter obscure social networks’ potential,

Catharine Smith, Egypt's Facebook Revolution: Wael Ghonim Thanks The Social Network, The Huffington Post

Rebecca MacKinnon, Internet wasn't real hero of Egypt,