For this week’s blog entry, I would like to discuss an idea proposed by political activist Wael Ghonim. He suggested the idea in the below video when speaking about the Arab Spring and the role social media played in the Egyptian revolution.
Social media and the internet are the building blocks of our society. We co-exist with it as explored in my previous blog “Your Second Self- Being In Two Places at Once“. It has many uses such as connecting with old and new friends, sharing photographs and even breaking a news story. Wael Ghonim used social media for a different purpose. He used it to start a revolution.
Wael Ghonim anonymously created a Facebook page which helped spark the Egyptian revolution. The voiceless were given a voice. Ghonim goes on to state that social media was a tool used to unite people and topple dictators but eventually tore the united apart.
Ghonim said in an interview with The World Post that “Social media is redistributing political power. It gave people the power to develop networks, organise actions and exchange information at scale in a short period of time”. Social Media has the ability to bring people together to further a cause which in Wael Ghonim’s case was to overthrow Egypt’s political dictators.
To liberate the internet means an open discussion on social platforms without being shut down or your opinion muted. You could argue that this already happens. People all over the world have opinions on all sorts of topics including newsworthy pieces and satirical articles. From a quick glance all is at it seems but there is a hidden darker side.
The internet is used to fuel conversations of hate and prejudice against all and anything it can get its hands on, including race, gender and occupation. The hashtag #blacklivesmatter represented a group of people standing up for themselves against police brutality. But to some, this was perceived as an attack on their skin colour and the hashtag #alllivesmatter was born. The internet gave people the freedom to stand up for themselves but it also propelled a storm of negativity. allowing conversations descend into angry mobs.
Think Like Me
“Part of the Internet is being held captive by the less noble aspects of our human behavior. Today’s social media currency is likes, shares and retweets. This is how we are rewarded for our contributions. We are defined by the number of followers we have. We are participating in a never-ending popularity contest.”
We seek out echo-chambers to confirm and validate our opinions, to get those likes, shares and retweets. Echo chambers are essentially versions of group-think where we look for like minded people to agree with us.The internet in it’s current state does now allow for opposing views. We search for people that share our opinion and dismiss people that don’t agree with us.
Wael Ghonim’s intention to liberate the internet means to free it from all the negativity and disruptive behavior it brings. To let it be a place where thoughtful conversations take places not just a platform for news to be broadcast. He wants to promote discussion and a platform for conflicting opinions without the fear of harsh retaliation. He wishes to promote thoughtful and respectful conversations in a civilicised manner. Ghonim is in no way suggesting that we must all agree with each other but that we must voice our opinions in a constructive civilized manner.
We seem to have entered a world online where we perceive ourselves as the one true opinion. We have developed a sense of inflated self-importance where we talk at each other. In order to liberate the internet and take away it’s hold on us, we need to create meaningful conversation and talk with each other.
“Today I believe if we want to liberate the society, we first need to liberate the Internet.” – Wael Ghonim