The Social Media of the Egyptian Uprising
Now that you have an idea of how Twitter was used in the uprisings, hear from these Egyptians who used social media firsthand to experience the events of last January.
Mariam Aziz did not have a Twitter account during the uprising, but she understands how it was used – at times just to make sure friends and family were still alive.
Mariam is an Egyptian student abroad in the United States. Since Egypt’s initial January 25 protest, she has been one of a small group of people organizing and attending solidarity protests in Washington, D.C. Mariam was happy to see Mubarak go, but she says there are still many concessions to be made, deaths to be honored and lives at stake.
During the original uprisings, she used Facebook as her main means of organizing the protests and spreading the word. Since December, she has begun following Tahrir on Twitter.
While Adel El-Adawy believes social media played a strong role in what he calls the Egyptian uprising, he does not believe that it was the only factor.
Adel is an Egyptian student studying in the United States. He was here during the uprising that ousted Mubarak, so he had to experience the energy and unity of Tahrir Square remotely.
At the urging of his professors at American University in Washington, D.C., Adel started a blog he writes and edits with a team of other students in the U.S. The blog demonstrates their perspectives and comments on politics in Egypt. It allows the students to put forth their ideas in a way that would otherwise be difficult from abroad.
Adel uses social media like Twitter (@AdelAdawy) and Facebook to promote his blog. He sends tweets with article links to scholars in the field and others he thinks would be interested. Some, like Middle East scholar Marc Lynch, will tweet back, gaining Adel more recognition and credibility.
In this video, he discusses some of the ways that he uses Twitter. In the video he uses some statistics, some of which are correct. It is true that only about 27 percent of Egyptians have access to the Internet, according to Internet World Stats. Even fewer than one percent of the population had Twitter at the time of the uprising, however. There were about 12,899 users who identified as being on Twitter, according to social media tracking company Sysomos, out of a population of more than 80 million. Sysomos tweeted that during the uprising Twitter use in Egypt increased by 60 percent.
Georgetown University Professor Adel Iskandar started out his interview by cautioning that Twitter’s role in the Egyptian uprising is often overstated. He said many protests seemed to spring out of nowhere, with participants thronging the square despite a lack of access to Twitter.
He would know. Iskandar witnessed protests in February 2011 firsthand.
With that forewarning aside, Iskandar described how the “Twitterati,” or more popular, English-tweeting users, built messages that echoed more broadly thanks to Twitter. They interacted with foreign media, eventually creating a symbiotic relationship in which the press depended on these tweeters for news, and the Twitterati depended on the attention of the world outside Egypt for protection from the regime.
Iskandar said that Twitter created a sense of solidarity among protesters, too.
To read more about these uses for Twitter and how they fit in with traditional theories of social movements, check out the post called “Traditions and Tweets.”