Listening to Khalid Albaih talk about his work and his ability to connect and unite people from around the world showed me just how far the idea of social media has come. I think it’s widely assumed that many social media outlets began as simple ways of allowing people to communicate across different mediums (text, photos, video), but the fact that those simple mediums are now able to inspire movements around the globe is truly revolutionary. But what’s yet to be determined is whether social media can in fact aid in the completion of an actual revolution, or whether serving as a tool for inspiration is as far as its uses can go.
Albaih primarily focused his discussion on events that have occurred in the past few years in the Middle East, where he has been living. In particular, he talked a lot about the Arab Spring and what occurred in Egypt during that time period. It was fascinating, and even breath-taking, to hear a first hand account of not only what was going on there at the time, but what it felt like to be part of such a movement. The way it made people, many being of the millennial generation, feel empowered and motivated by their ability to spread a message not only across a country but across the world must have been exhilarating. And then to see, at first, the institutions they’d been fighting against begin to come crumbling down was surely a vilifying experience. Yet it was all spurred by people communicating with each other over issues they were typically not supposed to speak about that led to such drive for change, and all done from peoples phones and computers.
However, looking at many of those same countries in the Middle East today, we see equally difficult situations in many countries, and in others such as Syria, far worse. So why is that? If social media and the ability to communicate easily with others clearly has the ability to start and spur changes and revolutions, then why isn’t it able to finish them? That’s not a question with an easily definable answer, but one thing I think social media may take away from traditional uprisings and protests is the fact that although many things and events can be shown easily to a large audience, that large audience doesn’t always feel compelled to then step in and take part in the actual demonstrations and protests and demand change. It just means there’s a larger audience of people who know and may care deeply about the issue, but may not actually act on it. Due to this, social media may not have quite the power to complete a revolution people may be pushing for; however, it certainly has the ability to inspire and motivate people around the world to act, as it has for Mr. Albaih.