The 2016 Presidential Election is flooding our televisions, radios, facebook pages, and every other form of media with arguments on the better candidate of 2 candidates from the two parties that have governed our country for decades. We as Americans give a huge amount of attention, arguably too much, to this race that occurs every 4 years. Each time around, people debate and bicker about what issues are more pressing in America, and how we can solve them, and while some tend to get very heated and passionate about these issues, at the end of the day, the problem solving rate of the United States is very slow. While many people wish our government would take quicker and more drastic action, at the end of the day, the slow nature of our political system and the passive bystander citizens are proof of our nation’s political stability, and the general well being of the population as a whole.
Khalid Albaih’s talk last week gave all of us a new perspective on an unstable political and economic climate, how quickly societies can erupt into radical protests, and how powerful the relatively new tool of social media can be as an igniter of revolution. Khalid Albaih, has produced many works of art that are of little monetary value. But if you walk through the streets of major cities in Muslim nations, you will find his work reproduced as graffiti on the streets. Through social media, Khalid has been able to exercise a uniquely powerful voice and be a source of inspiration for the oppressed citizens of the Arab world.
Khalid also gave us a new perspective on our good friend Facebook, a tool many of us have used since 6th grade to post funny videos and photo albums on our walls. The way we think of Facebook as a social tool is very different from how people from the Arab world use Facebook as a social tool. Before the internet, people of the Arab world were socially oppressed through strict national boarders, no freedom of speech, and a media controlled by the government. The rise of social media gave people a voice and means of connecting with others that they never had before, and it opened many social and political doors, mainly, in the form of sharing ideas and organizing demonstrations.
Today, we look back on the spring of 2010, now known as the “Arab Spring,” where citizen uprisings occurred widespread across the Arab world, with major uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria, and Bahrain. With free communication on the internet, citizens could finally organize and group together to protest the horrible living conditions and social regulations that their governments do nothing to fix. There is still much work to be done to raise living standards in these nations, but people of this region have discovered the fact that they cannot and will not be oppressed by their governments anymore.
Khalid is living proof that social media is arguably the most powerful instrument of change that we have today.