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I don't want to understate the role of Facebook and Twitter in the recent events in Northern Africa and the Middle East, but let's not get carried away. It's not the medium, it's the message that sparks revolution. And while tools like Facebook and Twitter let a lot of people get their message out, important messages always seem to find a way to get out.
Aside from the fact that the revolution is happening on cell phones more than online, revolution is happening because people showed up -- some of that organizing happens on Facebook, some of the excitement is created because people see the photos on twitter.
But most of it happens because people talk.
Sure, they talk online, they talk on their phones, they forward other people's conversations... but they talk in coffeehouses and bars, they talk on the streets, they repeat what other people said.
The medium is not the message -- the message is repression and fear and desperation. When people feel their lives are getting continuously worse, they're going to talk about it. Shutting down the cell phones, turning off the Internet, and beating people into silence only goes so far.
It bothers me when I hear people giving "social media" credit for a social uprising, because it makes it sound like the revolution would never have happened without our Internet toys and, to me, trivializes the fight and obscures the real problems.
We do have more ways to communicate than ever before, and we learn a lot of things that Walter Cronkite would never have told us in the days of monolithic news agencies. But I know that even in the blackest of news blackouts, people talk, people connect, and revolutions happen.
Even without Facebook.
Bob: Re: Facebook did not topple Egypt
There seems to be a desperation among many 20-35 year olds to elevate Facebook to near mythical status around it's role in Egypt; where less than 5% of the population of Egypt have FB accounts and broadband is a luxury. I've heard kids as young as 15 reciting the new mythos of FB's alleged role.
If this were the American Revolution, Paul Revere's horse would be getting all the credit. Facebook is just the horse in the equation.
I truly believe that the saturation of FB as a media channel that allows for vicarious or side-line engagement in real-world events has created a generation of passive lemmings. Because they post, they feel they participate.
If Facebook truly facilitated active behavior, then the U.S. would be out of Afghanistan and Iraq. Somalia and the Sudan would not be ignored. Education would be improving. A real Health plan would be implemented in the US that's as good, if not BETTER, than what Europeans get. Poverty would be reduced. A sane immigration policy (like the DREAM act; or Start Up Visas) would be in place...and, on, and on...
Facebook works well for a Sarah Palin'ish unidirectional megaphone and thin messaging platform. It doesn't work well for communication and dialogue that requires deeper thought. And, I feel it breeds passivity.
There are thousands of years of human history without Facebook or Twitter. News may not have spread so quickly, but, news spread. People gathered. People acted. Perhaps, because people also had time to think about things, they were able to concoct truly intelligent plans and strategies, like the U.S. Constitution, that could last and sustain over time.