How Social Media Can Start a Revolution

by | Feb 2, 2015 | Frontline

In the summer of 2009, thousands of Iranians took to the streets to protest what was almost certainly a rigged presidential election. The protests were quickly dubbed the “Twitter Revolution” because protesters were able to use the well-known social network to communicate with one another and with the world. Time magazine said of Twitter at the time:

What began as a toy for online flirtation is suddenly being put to much more serious uses. After the [2009] election in Iran, cries of protest from supporters of opposition candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi arose in all possible media, but the loudest cries were heard in a medium that didn’t even exist the last time Iran had an election.”

Eighteen months after the start of the Iranian uprising, millions of Egyptian protesters—many of whom communicated with one another through Facebook and other social media platforms—flooded Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo to demand the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. After 18 days of protests, Mubarak abdicated, Egypt’s constitution was suspended and its parliament disbanded.

Egypt has gone through several leadership changes since then, and just last month 16 died in protests marking the fourth anniversary of the revolution. But unlike similar turmoil in the past, the deaths have attracted worldwide attention, largely due to graphic images and video circulated on social media of a dying 32-year-old Shaimaa el-Sabbagh being carried from the scene.

For millions of people around the world—particularly the millennial generation—social media has opened up the possibility that change really can happen, even in nations ruled by totalitarian regimes. It would be a mistake, however, to assume that such technology is somehow biased towards freedom and democracy. The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) is reported to have more than 45,000 Twitter accounts, which it has successfully used to spread its message of violent Islamic totalitarianism. In addition to hijacking popular hashtags to reach and recruit younger people all over the world, the group and its sympathizers have successfully hacked accounts of celebrities and other organizations, including the United States Central Command.

Young people in the United States and the rest of the West have also discovered social media activism, for causes as profound and important as #Blacklivesmatter—referring to police brutality in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner—and as trivial as #breaktheinternet, in reference to nude photos of Kim Kardashian. For better or worse, everyone with a smartphone can now share with the world his or her thoughts on Ferguson, the Middle East or Justin Bieber.

Of course demanding to be heard is different from having something meaningful or helpful to say. Beyond self-aggrandizing pronouncements riddled with bad grammar and poor spelling, some “activism” can often deteriorate into outright bullying and harassment. Some also worry that, particularly in the West, social media activism gives young people a false sense of accomplishment with very little effort. As Laura Seay wrote in the Washington Post:

Such forms of advocacy, particularly those related to social media, are often derisively referred to as ‘slacktivism’ or ‘armchair activism.’ These activities pose a minimal cost to participants; one click on Facebook or retweet on Twitter and the slacktivist can feel that he or she has helped to support the cause. Slacktivists don’t have to spend a Saturday doing hard labor to build a home or sacrifice a portion of their monthly entertainment budget to a cause. They don’t even have to move from behind the screens of their electronic devices.”

But many activists themselves report that social media is vital to organizing their followers and communicating their message to the world. Anti-police brutality activist DeRay McKesson talked to Noah Berlatsky of the Atlantic about the role of Twitter in the Ferguson protests:

“The intensity with which they responded to protesters very early—we were able to document that and share it quickly with people in a way that we never could have without social media. We were able to tell our own stories. The history of blackness is also a history of erasure. Everybody has told the story of black people in struggle except black people. The black people in the struggle haven’t had the means to tell the story historically.”

The ability of almost all parties in a conflict to tell the world their side of the story is perhaps the most important contribution social media has made to humanity’s ongoing struggle for peace and justice. It’s not surprising that broadcasting many thoughts we might otherwise have kept private would display some of the best and worst in human nature. But there is no question that Facebook, Twitter and similar platforms have given a national and even worldwide voice to movements and individuals who would never have had one otherwise. And that is, for the most part, a good thing.

CHARISMA NEWSLETTERS

Stay up-to-date with current issues, Christian teachings, entertainment news, videos & more.

The latest breaking Christian news you need to know about as soon as it happens.

Prophetic messages from respected leaders & news of how God is moving throughout the world. 


MORE FROM CHARISMA

The Church Revived: 3 Keys to the Emerging Move of God

The Church Revived: 3 Keys to the Emerging Move of God

During the past two years, I believe the church at large has been in a season of returning to God. Repentance is crucial when it comes to revival. Scripture shows a clear pattern that repentance precedes the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (see Joel 2:12-28 and Acts...

How Divine Wrestling Changes Our Identity

How Divine Wrestling Changes Our Identity

All of us at some point will hit a place of getting the wind knocked out of us. We all experience unexpected detours and times when there seems to be no way out. But there is One who lives in us, the Lord Jesus Christ, who gives us the strength to overcome obstacles....

Spirit-Filled Pastor: How Does God Lead Us Today?

Spirit-Filled Pastor: How Does God Lead Us Today?

Whether it is the Spirit leading or forbidding in the book of Acts, or the Spirit leading throughout Christian history, it’s clear that the leading of the Spirit is important. In the Old Testament, it appears that the Spirit of God could be withdrawn completely from...

Joyce Meyer: Keys to Winning Your Race in Life

Joyce Meyer: Keys to Winning Your Race in Life

Everyone has a race to run. That just means we all have a life to live. The apostle Paul says in Hebrews 12:1 (NIV), “Therefore...let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for...

Prophetic Word: The Lord Says, ‘I Am the Consuming Fire’

Prophetic Word: The Lord Says, ‘I Am the Consuming Fire’

God says that during this season, He is turning up the heat, finding the gold and bringing His refining fire. Job makes a powerful statement of faith as he says of the Lord, "When he has tried me, I shall come out as gold." God knew Job's heart and Job knew the heart...

What Is ‘The One Thing’ God Wants From You?

What Is ‘The One Thing’ God Wants From You?

In 1971, I was invited to spend one month in Singapore at a new institute that had been started by John Haggai. It was still in the formative stages then—a place where Asian church leaders would be trained and challenged to witness for Christ. Today, more than 40...

RECENT ARTICLES

Bill Johnson: Reformers Are Arising to Transform Our World for Christ

Throughout history, reformers have lived with the conviction of the superiority of the gospel of Jesus Christ to transform individual lives, communities, and ultimately, nations. Recently I had the...
37 Prayers for the Suffering Persecuted Church

37 Prayers for the Suffering Persecuted Church

It was a Pentecost bloodbath and most Christians never heard about it. More than 50 Christians were killed in one of the deadliest terror attacks on Nigerians this year. Scores of gunmen rushed in to kill Christians in the midst of worship. All told, over 360 million...

The United States: Birthed in Prophetic Symbolism

The United States: Birthed in Prophetic Symbolism

One of the most amazing facts about the Founding Fathers of our nation is this: The one referred to as the "voice" of the revolution (John Adams) and the one referred to as the "pen" of the revolution (Thomas Jefferson) both died on the same day—July 4, 1826—exactly...

Why Did God Give ‘This’ to Me?

Why Did God Give ‘This’ to Me?

It’s a question I frequently hear. It’s one I’ve asked. And maybe it’s one you’ve asked, too. The question is, “God, why did You give this to me?” This can be any number of issues, from emotional or psychological struggles to symptoms or sicknesses, disabilities or...

No Evil Can Stop What God Has Planned

No Evil Can Stop What God Has Planned

I sense it. And I perceive a growing number of people in massive proportions sense the increasing momentum of power and might worldwide. Something is on the horizon—something more eerie and ominous than what the people of the world have ever before experienced. Even...

Pin It on Pinterest