When Mark Zuckerberg first created Facebook, his vision was to create a tool and plant form for interpersonal communication online, which could be beneficial for entertainment purposes. However, he might not even think about how influential this tool can be used for many social movements. As more people are starting to use social media, which allows everyone to instantly share their ideas and opinions on certain events, it has become a much more powerful tool in social changes and movement.
Khalid Albaih is an independent political cartoonist. He creatively draws biting cartoons to champion freedom of expression and democracy in the Arab world. During our panel with him, he said: “One reason that I choose to use social media is that the internet does not have boundaries.” Indeed, he mentioned that in the Middle East, it is hard to cross the boulders because of political reasons. It’s complicated because they need visas or passports. They also face the threat of government’s censorship. However, social media could solve all these problems. Everyone can send out messages, express ideas, and criticize events. And every material is public so that government’s censorship will not stop anything from happening.
I agree with Khalid that social media such as Facebook is a revolutionary weapon in social movements, because it is much faster, influential, and broader than any other tools in previous social changes before. When people expressed abolitionism, ideas presented in writing and speaking forms. When people talked about African-American civil rights movement, ideas existed in broadcast and sound forms. Right now, ideas can be present visually and virtually as an information form. This evolution of forms is already revolutionary.
Khalid also mentioned the umbrella movement in Hong Kong in 2014 and I kept following that movement back then. Students in Hong Kong protested for political autonomy. When police officers attacked them using pepper spray, they began to carry umbrellas to protect themselves.
The world becomes a smaller place because of the internet connection and people from all around the globe could express their opinions on one specific event. I saw many people either support or disagree with the umbrella movement. But one could not deny that there were a lot of people participating and following this movement. Although the umbrella event failed in the end, a lot of people still remembered what happened and its legacy still remained.
Ultimately, social media functions as a tool that is able to break time, space and even age limitation and created an open space for the communication of ideas. It not only facilitates social revolutions and also become part of social revolutions. It itself is a revolution.