By Hind Omar
History has proven that the world is no stranger to revolutionary movements and uprisings. From the French Revolution of 1789 to the Taiping Rebellion in China beginning in 1851 to the Haitian Revolution of 1791, it is clear that the idea of revolt is not a new concept to us. Every continent except for Antarctica has faced at least two major political rebellions.
In 2011 alone, the world encountered over nine uprisings in different countries, including Tunisia, Egypt Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Algeria, Jordan, Sudan, and Syria. These revolutions are known as the "Internet revolutions."
We are a generation that heavily relies on social networking and social media. There are over 800 million active users on Facebook, Twitter has over 175 million users, and Tumblr is now one of the top 50 most-used websites. Seventy percent of Facebook users are under 35, and 48 percent say they receive some of their "news" from Facebook or other social networking sites. These are statistics that did not exist 10 years ago and have had a major impact on how the world works and operates.
During Tunsia's and Egypt's days of social unrest, the world stood still and watched as a new player took the forefront. Social media was becoming a new phenomenon. The idea of social media was nowhere near new but it was being used and developed in ways that it had never been before. Regular people -- scholarly or not, employed or not, wealthy or not -- everyone was realizing they had a voice, through a keyboard. The simple access to a computer or smart phone gave everyone the power to say what he or she felt needed to be heard. People who were living the daily turmoil, standing in protest, witnessing every injustice -- firsthand testimonies were being shared by those who lived it.
Blogs, video uploads, tweets, photos, and status updates were happening more than almost ever before. This newfound creative action was a revolution in itself. Ordinary citizens were taking reporting and journalism into their own hands. The Egyptian government tried turning off the national Internet and mobile phone access for a few days during the fall of the regime, as well as confiscating photography, audio, and other reporting equipments from journalists. But even then, the news was pouring in, not necessarily from professional journalists, but rather the population of a changing nation. Many computer-literate people found ways around the blocked Internet and managed to update the world every step of the way. News networks from around the world were using these informal journalists' reporting as their source of "on-the-floor accounts." These networks included CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera, Press TV, Fox News, and several others. Most of the rallies, protests, and major gatherings were organized from Facebook event pages, status updates, or personal blogs. A group of students attending Cairo University made the decision to leave home -- some with disapproving families -- and took to the streets. They took shelter in an apartment near Tahrir Square. They created shifts -- some would march, protest, and demonstrate, while the others reported their experiences. These students had a part in a change that will be forever marked in history, and they haven't even graduated college yet. The people took activism and journalism and made it their own.
Although there were hundreds of uprisings prior to those of 2011 and 2012, the power to share primary sources with the rest of the world is giving revolutions a whole new look. It is making things happen faster, in a more organized fashion, and sometimes more intensely, at least from what we've seen thus far. These first two successful governmental overthrows driven by social networking served as prototypes for the several revolutions that are still facing a similar struggle. There are countries like Yemen, Bahrain and Syria who are still in the midst of revolution well into 2012. But the civilians taking part in these revolts have found a new nonviolent weapon -- the ability to share stories, opinions, experiences, multi-media, and more in an all-new way. 2011 has seen its fair share of excitement from across the world and I for one am extremely impressed with the use of social networking on an international scale, but I am also hoping that this becomes a stable trend, and people realize that when used responsibly, social media can make change happen.
Today, after more than a year since the Egyptian revolution began, I realize that only time will tell how effective social media will continue to be in the struggle against inhumane regimes. As I see Syrians being slaughtered, Yemenis being starved, and Bahrainis continuing to march, it is evident that these people are creating their own change, and the power is in their fingertips.