It is obvious to say that social media has become a force to be reckoned with in the engine we call mass communication. What wasn’t so “obvious”, however, was exactly how powerful Facebook, Twitter and YouTube would one day become.
I started working for Facebook a year ago, and little did I know what this year would have in store. Throughout my various interviews for the first Arabic role at Facebook Dublin, I constantly reiterated the importance of allowing people an open forum to speak freely and honestly. Countries such as Egypt (where my family comes from), Tunisia, Syria, and Bahrain, to name but a few, were the specific ones I had in mind when making this previous statement. When people thought of the Middle East, they didn’t necessarily see technology and digital media in the centre of the Middle-Eastern agenda. But little did they know that these very two things would change the deep-rooted, political landscape of these very countries.
In a country such as Egypt, Facebook and Twitter initially highlighted the massive class divide, where on one side, you had Egyptians of an upper class using Facebook in English to stay up-to-date with friends, events and celebrities – whilst on the other – you had Arabic-speaking users who seemed less trusting of this new social revolution, and began to use it with caution when it came to private data and interaction. As Facebook continued to expand in Egypt, people began to voice their political and economic concerns, as it was the only open forum to discuss such taboo topics. Slowly these opinions turned into calls for action, and the rest as they say, is history.
The excitement of having the job I had at Facebook really reached its climax when the protests in the Middle East started to kick off. I spent entire days monitoring and watching the dramatic effects of this uprising on Facebook, as well as the effect of Facebook on this epic revolution.
Naturally, when the Egyptian revolution kicked off, it hit close to home for me. My family was still in Cairo at the time of the events, and I was sitting at Facebook HQ’s watching history unfold, wondering what the outcome would be. From both Facebook and Twitter I could get the latest updates, and was even able to inform my family about the scheduled communication black-outs. It sounds like a cliché, but honestly, I’m not quite sure how well informed I would have been without these social platforms.
Leaving Facebook in March, I felt that I had accomplished a lot. I walked away knowing that through the actions that we had taken at the back end of Facebook, we had truly aided the voices of the people – their qualms and concerns – and achieved true freedom.
As I move on to another exciting role, this time at Edelman UAE, I now know the importance and full effect social media can truly have, and I am excited to share this experience with others.
In our everyday life, we are constantly bombarded with subliminal and obvious messages on television, radio and through print… But isn’t it a touch more personal when we see an interesting status update or tweet? Does that not shape our opinion more, knowing that these tweets are not controlled, and have no particular agenda in mind?
I believe this revolutionary medium will continue to expand and grow, and a company that does not accommodate the use of Facebook and Twitter into its blueprint has no real relevance in the world of today. For a tool capable enough to change the scope of an entire country, can sure do miracles for any product, service or public figure.