As more and more employers chastise our generations obsession with social media, buy viagra Ciara Roche look at the global revolutions that could not have occurred without the help of these apparently time-wasting websites.

Social media has come under fire lately for a range of different reasons. Cyber bullying through sites such as Facebook and the anonymus Q&A site ask.fm has resulted in the tragic suicides of Ryan Halligan and Megan Meier. There is constant stories of employees who are fired after they share a degrading message about their business or a customer over social media. A case in Canada provoked outrage after a 16 year old was raped at a party and pictures of the attack were posted online the next day. Ireland can even boast it’s own social media downgrading after #slanegirl bypassed the internet and became a prime time news worthy story. Infamously exploding all over twitter to the dismay of anyone with a tweet of decency, the scandal provoked much discussion of the ethics of social media and how it is negatively affecting our youth culture.

One can’t deny the negative allegations that are coming up against various social media sites. The most ardent fan of facebook must admit it promotes a high level of vanity and encourages one to simply, and quickly, judge people on small controlled pieces of information. Time recently published an article lamenting the millennial youth as “The Me Me Me Generation.” Focusing his scorn on our obsession with sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr,  42 year old journalist Joel Stein decried the effect of these sites on the youth of the world. It was suggested that the The Me generation was concerned solely with their own views and shared them to their friends through various social sites. They believed that their opinions mattered just as much as everyone else and they found a forum where they could constantly promote them.

However, what if our opinions weren’t so simply occupied with what was on television or with taking pictures of our food. Social media advocates a free avenue to express oneself as one pleases with speed and ease. In the past, social injustice fired up revolutions through printed pamphlets and risque newspaper articles, however, social media allows individuals to express themselves and their own views in real time. The Me generation are obsessed with promoting their own opinions, but they have also found an avenue where one person’s simple opinion, or one person’s short tweet, could actually matter. The use of social media in the 2009-10 election protests in Iran, the 2011 Egyptian revolution, and the 2011 Tunisian revolution showed how social media could be used for more than just passive entertainment.  More commonly known as ‘The Internet Generation,’ Gordon Brown once referred to our era as “more tumultuous than any previous economic or social revolution….. you’ve got the possibility of people building alliances right across the world.”

The 2009 Iran election protests were one of the first indications to the power of social media. After President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was controversially elected, claims that the results were manipulated and the voting rigged manifested into mass protests across the nation. As the disputed government attempted to quench any signs of revolution, protesters availed of the speed and ease of communication that Twitter offered. Using it to organise gatherings and spread word of the injustices taking place in a country clamped down with censorship, the ‘Green Wave’s’ use of social media truly reestablished the revolutionary tactics of the modern world. The Iranian government had succeeded in controlling the traditional media and modes of communications amongst its citizens, whilst completely obliterating access for international news organisations. Yet, it’s attempts to control the power of the internet and social media was futile. Twitter had a planned technical overhaul that would temporarily render the website offline.  However, Twitter delayed this planned shutdown because “events in Iran were tied directly to the growing significance of Twitter as an important communication and information network.” Twitter, and subsequently the rest of the world, were awoken to the true power of social media as a mode of communication that far surpassed just spreading cat pictures and poking your friends.

Twitter also gave media outlets outside of Iran access to content and information that was blocked because of censorship from the government. Major news networks such as CNN and the BBC, many of whom were blocked in Iran, gained much of it’s coverage through information shared through Twitter and Youtube. The Iranian elections weren’t on the front pages of the daily newspapers but through its relentless place on top of the worldwide trending topics, the struggles of the people of Iran was widely publicised. The election wasn’t just being talked about by those in Iran, but was being spoken out and supported by people around the world who used the hashtag #Iranelections to continue the spread of information.

Online activism began in Egypt with a simple Facebook page supporting the striking of workers in El-Mahalla El-Kubra in 2008. ‘The 6 April Youth Movement’ page began to grow in followers whilst demonstrations and protests were organised through the page. Social media was used by many public activists to promote an uprising and civil disobedience in light of censorship, police brutality, government corruption and high unemployment. Another Facebook page, ‘We are all Khaled Saeed,’ promoted the injustice of the death of Khaled Saeed whilst under police custody, and influenced growing discontent amongst Egyptian citizens in the weeks before the revolution. Facebook and the page offered a forum where people could safely gather and share their frustration with their government.

On the 25th of January 2011, the page called for a protest that saw hundreds of thousand of Egyptians flood the streets to demonstrate their discontent with the murder of Saeed, and the corruption within the countries top forces. These demonstrations continued to occur and social media enabled them to be quickly and easily organised. One Egyptian simply summed up the modes of communication utilized by the rebels, “we use Facebook to schedule the protests, Twitter to coordinate, and YouTube to tell the world.” Similar to Iran, Egyptian activists utilised social media to share the turmoil of the revolutions with the rest of the world and major news outlets availed of this information as well as utilising social media to cover the events themselves. Reporter Sharif Abdel Kouddous from American network ‘Democracy Now!’ liveblogged events from the protests in Tahrir Square which helped to raise awareness amongst the world media. The consistent coverage through social media also stopped the forces from inciting violence in order to control the uprising.

The 2011 revolutions in Tunisia followed Egypt’s lead in utilising social media to promote and gather demonstrations amongst the general public. Protesting the President Ben Ali’s 20 year rule, Tunisians promoted their outrage at rampant unemployment, rising food prices and government corruption to the point where Ben Ali fled the country. Tunisian forces began blocking websites used to promote civil unrest and added code to sites such as Facebook that enabled the forces to delete government-defying accounts and posts. Subsequently, political bloggers began to be taken into police custody for allegedly inciting rebellion. The arrests and the Tunisian government’s blockage of the whistleblower site Wikileaks caught the interest of anarchic internet group Anonymous. Anonymous targeted the Tunisian government, leaking documents on Ben Ali’s great expenditure that enraged the Tunisian public. After the fleeing of Ben Ali, an Al Jazeera reporter praised the influence social media had on the revolution and wrote “we are living history. Tunisians have given us the best gift ever.”

Whilst Iran, Tunisia, and Egypt show how social media can promote and gather people bound by revolution, the negative side of this can be seen reflected in the London Riots. Many media outlets lamented the gathering of the rioters in locations as promoted through Facebook, Twitter and through the untraceable messaging service BBM. The London Riots lasted for 3 days and saw huge destruction in one of the most-developed cities in the world.

Social media, similar to all media types, has it’s positives and negatives. It is up to the individual to harness the power they so simply have at their fingertips as they drink a cup of tea and sit on the couch. The internet and social media has provided an enormous global link that we can not take for granted.

Ciara Roche
Features Editor