Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Social Media Revolution

Who has once in their life had the inner desire to change the world? You know - , when you were a kid -, that innocent wish for world peace?
Or better yet… who has never hoped to change a thing because it seems too hard or simply impossible to achieve?

Well, I’ve got news for you!
Never before has it been easier to change the world, or at least the little piece of the world that surrounds you.

Ever since Wikileaks began publishing confidential information back in 2007 the world has been in uproar. And the US government has tried to silence the truths about its involvement and handling of international affairs ever since.

Although it is ludicrous to claim Wikileaks as being responsible for the recent revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, it has nevertheless helped raise international awareness of the widespread corruption, thus making it just a little harder for dictatorships to diffuse these situations.
Without Wikileaks the Vice President in Egypt would have been in a much stronger position, but now that the whole world knows that he is buddies with Israel, his presence alone added to the fuel of the burning fires on the streets of Egypt.
And what was the first thing the Egyptian president did when the revolts got out of hand? Shut down access to Twitter and Facebook. When the uprising started in Egypt everyone was fast to blame it on Islamic militants. But the tens of thousands of people gathering on parliament square were a far cry from blood curdling terrorists! They were lawyers, shop keepers and engineers. The average Jo Bloggs who simply had had enough!! They were sick and tired of the violence, oppression and corruption in their country. These people did not attend secret rebel meetings before joining the demonstrations. Nor did they subscribe to the anarchist grapevine. No, they heard about the movement on Facebook, Twitter and the local media and decided it was time to act and stand up for their rights.

The Jasmine revolution in Tunisia started with Mohammed Bouazizi setting himself on fire in an act of desperation after being tyrannised and humiliated in public. It ended in a mass revolt which spread throughout the country, partly organised through Facebook and Twitter. One of the reasons these tools were so effective in spreading the word in Tunisia was due to the high percentage of youths in that country. Over half the population is under 25 years of age.
Tunisia and Egypt; these are two prime examples where social media helped spread the word and generate a critical mass that lead to drastic changes in those countries.

Another group of people using social media as a weapon to gather support for their cause is Greenpeace. Through Facebook and YouTube channels they have forced Burger King and Nestle to look for more sustainable sources of palm kernel. They also put a big dent in Fonterra’s online brand who effectively committed “Facebook Suicide” by totally mismanaging the response to the online pressure.
One of their most effective tools was a YouTube video showing how a jogger is choking on orang-utan hair while drinking a glass of Fronterra milk. That video was so effective, that they were forced to pull it from their YouTube Channel due to legal actions from Fonterra.

YouTube has become not only the most favourite source of daytime entertainment but has proven itself a powerful viral communication tool to spread the word. Wikileaks first published the video of American soldiers massacring Iraqi civilians on YouTube before it was removed due to pressure from the US government. And posting YouTube videos is becoming easier as the day progresses. Google predicts that there will be more smartphones in the world than computers by 2016. Making a video and uploading it to your YouTube channel is just a click away.

I’m not saying that we all need to start toppling governments or chain us to trees. But we all can change the world if we want to. The tools are there for us, we only need to use them. The next time you see a person being beat up on the street, take out your phone and make a video. Upload it to youtube before you turn the corner (and run) . You find out about a teacher abusing children? Tell your friends on Facebook about it! You’d be astonished at how many people will start to listen if you start to talk. Also mention the good things in life! Someone helped you on the street when looking for directions, why not say thank you via Twitter?

The world is listening. All you need to do is start talking and changing the world around you one tweet at a time.

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