Social media is not the same as newspapers, radio, television that are from one to many since it gives a platform of many to many. For this reason, it makes communication possible besides being a democratic way of communication. On the other hand, social media uses internet technology that requires big investment thus its growth is hindered, which makes it not to reach a bigger population in many countries. Therefore, does social media has any impact in creation of revolutions and activism that is being experienced in the world today.
Viability of social media requires big investments to be done in terms of land, satellites, fiber optic cables, and software amongst other requirements. A government through subsidy facilitates the firms in the industry but the governments go to this venture purely for profits but not encouraging social movements. Malcom Gradwell agrees that social medial platforms such as Facebook and Twitter can never be a vehicle for revolution. This is because social media users are very few to create any impact. During the Egypt revolution, there were only 5.2 million subscribers, which is about 7 percent of the population. In February 2011, India had 100 million internet users, which is 8.4 percent of the population.
Radical communities who are either tired of or extremely irritated by the existing regimes or policies make revolutions. Besides, organized people and revolutions used to happen earlier before the internet came to exist (Helen). Moreover, movements are created in the hearts of real existing people who are not in way scared to confront and oppose. This people do not fear cameras and to be recorded to challenge the norms and question the recognized powers. This is because they have the desire to transform their immediate expectations for themselves. However, social media plays a vital role in organizing and publicizing something. Nevertheless, this presents nothing about passion, desire, oppression, and change, which is fundamental and core point for a revolution.
New social media such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and YouTube cannot be ignored because it has created a new democratic way for communicating. In addition, it is a more democratic way in comparison to traditional state media that are controlled by governments. “The days of government-sponsored or politically allied news papers having a media monopoly have been eclipsed by advent and adoption of social media, particularly in countries such as Egypt…Jordan…United Arab Emirates…and Lebanon”. This has helped online people to act as watchdogs to their official press particularly in the Arab world. For example, Egypt’s state controlled Al-Ahram daily printed a doctored picture of president Hosni Mubarak between heads of states at a meeting in Washington, D. C., in September 2010 but it was blogger Wael Khalil who revealed it. This shows the power of social media in checking government press.
In addition, “Iranians are blogging, posting to Facebook and, most visibly, coordinating their protests on Twitter, the messaging service”. This has helped the oppressed communities to topple their governments. Due to this impact, the governments who are actually the major investors of the internet technology have tried to limit its access to the citizenry. In Iran, the embattled president (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) tried to limit internet access and communications. In addition, “Hundred of Arab activists, writers, and journalists have faced repercussions because of their online activities”.
From another perspective, when we look at the American Revolution, there was the advent of a new innovative way of communication for the eighteen century, the newspaper. This helped to persuade the readers that they had a personal stake on what was happening in spite of where they lived. This flow of shared information helped to influence Americans to trust other Americans who they had no personal ties or ever met (Holtz). Social media platforms are definitely defining the way people find out and share information, form opinion as well as interact. In Tunisia for example, most of the content from the revolution in the tradition media originated from Facebook. From this, it shows that internet users are in turn becoming online news.
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media services are tools that facilitate improved communication. Despite the role of actual people and their sacrifice, Facebook, twitter and other social media platforms played a big role to oust President Hosni Mubarak and other governments. Even those that oppose the role of social media in activism do acknowledge that it plays an essential role to organize, strategize, publicize, as well as incite. Therefore, we can never underestimate the impact of social to create social unrest in the society.