Last week, as part of our series on the 10 Cultural Universals, we talked about how technology informs and accelerates culture.
In this post, we’re going to expand on that.
But we’re not heading back to the Dark Ages to do so. We’re going to stick with modern technology.
More specifically, social media.
The Arab Spring
Not many people know his name. But what happened to this young Tunisian merchant is what lit the flame of the Arab Spring – a tension that had been tightening for years, due to discontent and instability in places like Tunisia, Syria, Libya, and Egypt.
The police required Bouazizi to pay a bribe in order to sell his merchandise. Bouazizi took the matter to the governor, but he refused to listen.
So, Bouazizi lit himself on fire.
The Protest Spreads
Bouazizi’s plight was shared.
The people of Tunisia, and many states in the region, were facing government corruption, limited education, poverty, and high unemployment.
The youth were stirring, there was unrest. And they used the tools that only they – and few in government – understood: social media.
Via YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, young people organized protests, spread their mission, and started to fight the hard fight.
Research on the use and impact of social media during the uprising has been done, as this was one of the first cases of its use in a grassroots movement.
The Dubai School of Government surveyed Tunisians and Egyptians about their use of social media during the uprisings. The answers of 86% of Tunisians and 85% of Egyptians led to the report’s conclusion:
“Growth of social media in the region and the shift in usage trends have played a critical role in mobilization, empowerment, shaping opinions, and influencing change.”
At the height of the Arab Spring, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was removed from power. A win for the movement, at the time.
But now, some areas of the region are even more unstable. And governments have cracked down on social media use.
While this Arab Spring may not have resulted in a successful overthrow of power and corruption, social media did give those who were silent so long a voice.
Social Media Movements
#BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo, #MyStealthyFreedom.
Things are changing. Many are finding their voices.
And technology, in the form of social media, is largely generating this change.
People are sharing their experiences and learning from others’. People you know, strangers from all over the world.
While it’s unclear yet where progress will lead for some of these movements, it is clear that things will out. It’s clear that the things that matter, these serious cultural issues, will no longer hide in the dark.
They will no longer be ignored.