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Twitter Revolutions: How social media and young people can change the world

When throngs of young people took to the streets of Tunis, Tunisia, last month to protest the corrupt, repressive government and its inability to combat rising food prices and high unemployment, they communicated through social means that you and I take for granted.

Using Twitter and Facebook, the protesters managed to organize large groups of Tunisians to come together and express their outrage against a 23-year-old regime that had done little for the people but suppress their rights and fill the pockets of those at the top. When President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali fled the country on Jan. 14, it became clear that the first Twitter Revolution had occurred.

When states were deciding whether to ratify the Constitution, several of the Founding Fathers used newspapers, the most effective means of communication at the time, to try to win the document’s approval. James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay wrote a series of 85 compelling essays, known as The Federalist Papers, which explained how the new government would run and argued in favor of the Constitution. The essays were later published as a book in 1788.
The same could be said for Egypt. Emboldened by the revolution in Tunisia, young Egyptian protesters mobilized using social networking sites to take to the streets. After two days of unrest, the Egyptian government shut down the nation’s Internet and cut off wireless phone service to prevent the protests from gaining momentum. But that hasn’t stopped protesters, despite the tear gas and the threats of prison.

While it appears the Internet blackout has done little to put out the fires of discontent in Cairo, these two revolutions and the unsuccessful 2009 “Green Revolution” in Iran have shown how young people can use social media to try to bring about meaningful change in their countries.

New Internet tools, however, can be a double-edged sword as repressive governments use social networking sites to gather information against dissidents.

But the roles that Facebook and Twitter have played in recent revolts cannot be overlooked. For example, in Tunisia, reporters were prevented from covering the protests that started in the coastal city of Sidi Bouzid and that the state-run media labeled as terrorism or vandalism.

Despite government efforts to cover up protests, Ethan Zuckerman of Foreign Policy magazine reported: “Tunisians got an alternative picture from Facebook, which remained uncensored through the protests, and they communicated events to the rest of the world by posting videos to YouTube and Dailymotion. As unrest spread from Sidi Bouzid to Sfax, from Hammamet and ultimately to Tunis, Tunisians documented events on Facebook. As others followed their updates, it’s likely that news of demonstrations in other parts of the country disseminated online helped others conclude that it was time to take to the streets.”

What do you think?

How are social media such as Twitter and Facebook used to bring about change? How does Facebook offer an alternative view of events? How could you use Facebook or Twitter to implement a positive social change in your community? Join the discussion and let us know what you think!

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Comments
2/14/2011

Kaylie P
Mr. Hawkins/Buckingham, Vacaville, CA
Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube are some of the most ingenious social networking websites. Facebook has millions of Groups and Pages people can join to become more aware of different things. Twitter is an excellent way for celebrities and other seemingly out of reach people can communicate with the average joe. Youtube has made so, sooo many Nobodies into people that make six figure paychecks. Facebook has a way of making pages. If someone "Like"s a page, then all their friends see what that page is. This can make some Pages spread like wildfire and become extremely popular. Some people see the Internet as dangerous and unpredictable. The internet is an amazing tool that helps us spread information faster than a blink of an eye.

2/11/2011

Kristopher
Mr. Hawkins, Vacaville, CA
Because many people, around the world, access social networking sites numerous times daily, to spread “the word,” an ideal, or a cause, it can be done so at the click of a button. With millions of people are accessing it on the hour, social events can be used to offer on the ground, by the minute, eye witness accounts of world wide news. Social networking sites can be used for positive social purposes as well. Volunteering opportunities and community events can be published and advertised on social networking sites. Overall, social networking sites have both positive and negative uses.

2/11/2011

Jenny
Mr. Hawkins, Vacaville/Ca
Facebook and Twitter are the biggest social network of today that millions of people use to share ideas, conversations, and pictures. On Facebook there are things that are called events that people can make and invite anyone they want. The people in Egypt made events to grow the party of protestors against the government. I believe that Facebook and Twitter are both great tools for revolutions. I know I check mine at least twice a day and always check the new events. It would be very easy for people to communicate instantaneously. It provides a communication system that people can use to protest as well as just talking to friends and enjoying time.

2/11/2011

Seth
Mr. Hawkins / Buckingham Charter, Vacaville, CA
I feel that social networks such as Twitter and Facebook are good sources to spread news, but news is not always spread in the best way. The idea to organize riots over social networks is very creative, yet it was done in a more or less secretive way. Such as I wonder why news, tv, radio, and papers were not used to spread the news. This leads me to the conclusion that obviously there was a certain amount of secrecy that was purposely being taken, yet posting the news over facebook and twitter, brought about a more reserved public call out. This leads me to the realization that our generation is really reliant on social networking. Instead of spreading news by person, we hide behind our computer screens and talk. However, how this relates to Egypt, it was a good idea that the internets were shut down, this controlled the spread of the news for the riots. Yet at the same time, this is technically taking away the rights of the people for communication. As long as the situation is kept in control, then what ever the government has to do, I think that they should use their power to control, while still keeping the natural rights of the people in mind.

2/11/2011

Brittany S
Mr. Hawkins/ Buckingham Charter, Vacaville/CA
The fall of the Soviet Union is largely due to the nation’s restriction of media. Young people took to the streets to protest the oppressive, Communistic government. They wanted television, Rock n’ Roll, McDonald’s, Coca Cola, Hollywood—all of the things that young people in the Western world had. Today, popular media has transferred to the Internet, and just as the desire for media influenced high school and college students to protest in the Soviet Union era, the threat of a government “turning off” social media has prompted protest in the modern world. Social media has also contributed substantially to the changes that the protests bring about. Through sites such as Twitter and Facebook, people around the world are kept updated on revolutions. Because of this globalization, other nations are influenced to start their own riots. People say that the World Wide Web is controlled by world governments, but I still like to believe that the people of the world as a whole control the Internet. The “little people” are able to see great change through another “little person’s” view. The “news” placed on Facebook consists of individuals’ photos, updates, and videos that are actually involved in the action. It hasn’t been censored by the governments like the news media outlets have been. And through this social media, the people have sovereignty.

2/11/2011

Jeannine
Mr. Hawkins/BCMHS, Vacaville, CA
The internet is a beautiful thing that serves as the most effective tool of our time. Thanks to Facebook and Twitter, the lives of many have been drastically changed, whether that is for the good or bad is up to each person to interpret. I think it to be fantastic! Good for the youths to take advantage of modern day media to revolt against their government. Twitter is really amazing to think about because it is an awesome (user-friendly) way to be instantly connected and get updated news minute by minute. Huge kudos is sent to Egypt and Tunisia’s youth for making modern day history the way it should be done. Any one could use Facebook and Twitter to make a difference, whether it is to be more eco friendly for our planet, fundraising, or even a revolution. That is the beauty of the time we live and the fascination of the internet. Viva la World Wide Web!

2/11/2011

Spencer
Mr. Hawkins / Buckingham Charter, Vacaville, Ca
The internet and media is one of the most powerful tools in the world. Information is spread throughout the world in tenths of a second. Social Networks like Twitter and Facebook make spreading news and communicating with people even faster. This is why these networks are so powerful. You can post something on a social network like twitter and Facebook and have it sent to millions of people read your post within seconds. This is why information spreads so quickly. These networks are very useful and handy to have in our fast pace world that we live in today, but they can also be very destructive. You can post bad pictures or criticizing posts that can be very offensive and start riots and revolutions like people in Tunis, Egypt, and Tunisia. These social sites are very useful and great tools in this world, but to me, they are more destructive than they are helpful. There can be and is so much good that come from these sites and it is a great thing. People are very smart these days and can do almost anything and having open networks like this are very dangerous and the effects of their existence are very apparent.

2/11/2011

Davis Evans
Mr. Hawkins, Buckingham Charter Magnet High School, Vacaville, CA
Possibly the most important inventions of the early 21st century, Twitter and Facebook have revolutionized the way that people communicate to each other on a day to day, and even an minute to minute basis. Starting out as a simple way for friends to share pictures and random status updates to each other, both social networks have evolved into global channels of communication that can be used for much more than sharing pictures of your cat. Today, it has been shown both in Tunisia and Egypt that the instant, uncensored channels of communication provided by these sites allow a populace much more freedom in uniting and organizing against oppressive regimes. Another benefit of these sites that have been revealed by these explosive events is the ability to relay important and uncensored news to the world. While news channels and papers are controlled by the government in many countries, the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia have show that Facebook and Twitter can be used to distribute uncensored news of events around the world 24/7. This can be very useful to a populaces in getting past government cover-ups and crackdowns. Overall Twitter and Facebook are playing an even increasing role in shaping the political landscape, not to mention the social one.

2/11/2011

Alexandra
Mr. Hawkins, Vacaville, CA
Social media such as Twitter and Facebook are used to bring change by companies using these two sites to advertise their company. They use these sites because things spread very quickly on them. They are that popular that if something is said amongst your peers on them, everyone with find out what was said in a minute. You could use Facebook and Twitter to implement a positive social change in your community by say nice things about your community or post a advertisement for a company or group you are in. Facebook offers an alternative view of events by saying nice and offal things to events that are posted on the site.

2/11/2011

Kyle T.
Mr. Hawkins/Buckingham Charter, Vacaville/California
I believe that nobody exactly knows how powerful social network websites are today; it can be a very dangerous weapon, if used correctly. Just think about it, with around 175 Million people logging in to Facebook everyday, there is a very large window of opportunity for those who would decide to twist the responsibilities granted by the freedom of the Internet. I know of people on Facebook whom are easily persuaded, and quite gullible; if the people who are trying to start a revolution find those gullible people, then I believe that bad things can, and will happen in the World.

2/11/2011

Jessica
Mr.Hawkins, Vacaville, CA
People really don’t understand the power of the social networking world. The internet is a place where people can put what they are feeling and what they are thinking out for the world to see. When people are given that power and throw out ideas others are right there to pick it up and respond to it. There is no surprise that Twitter and Faceboook were used to spread the word about the protests. With new outlets of social media the possibilities never end and the next riot might just start from a new event on facebook.

2/11/2011

Jeremy
Mr. Hawkins/ Buckingham Charter, Vacaville, CA
I believe social networking are great to spread news. For example, during a period of time everyone on Facebook changed their profile picture to their favorite cartoon character. This online travel faster because this is how the world is evolving. There are hardly letters and newspapers. Internet is the future it’s a more adequate source for news. Facebook allows people to express themselves in writing rather than saying it. It offers a different view because writers cannot be discriminated against or judged as they would be in person. People often will get furious in an argument, but over the Internet it will not be as serious because its just words. I believe I could use Facebook as a positive resource as putting positive information about my life and making pages for the youth of America. I could make a page saying, “Kids Can Make a Difference” and many people or adults would like the status. It is better to have a positive impact than a negative.

2/11/2011

Iris
Hawkins/BCMHS, Vacaville,CA
Social media into today’s society not only is a new way of communication, but it is a new way for people to connect and relate to one another. Through Facebook people can view each other’s common interests from the movies they like to the charities they support, or post events inviting everyone and anyone Facebook. These social media networks allow change to move faster than word of mouth ever could. They have helped spread awareness of organizations like TOMS Shoes and Charity:Water. News papers and chain e-mails need a lot of catching up to do if they want to compare to the wildfire that social media creates. With all the technology that people have today it is no surprise that the word of revolution in Egypt spread through Facebook and Twitter. What comes next no one can really predict, but it is safe to assume that the horizon for social media and technology will never begin to fade.

2/11/2011

Samantha
Mr. Hawkins/Buckingham Charter, Vacaville, CA
Social network websites have a huge impact on our society today. It’s ridiculous how fast news travels on Facebook and Twiter, so it’s not really surprising to find out that Facebook and twitter were the beginning factor to the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt. Any person could start a group for anything whether that is positive or negative. There is no filter or security net that weeds out bad events on Facebook or very opinionated posts on twitter. A person could implement a positive social change or they could start revolt like what is happening in Egypt. There is really no control over what a person puts on a social network website, and there is no way to shut it down unless the Internet is turned off. Egypt was smart in trying to prevent the revolt by turning off the Internet, but unfortunately revolts were already set in motion by the time they decided to do so.

2/11/2011

Edith B
Mr Hawkins/ Buckingham Charter Magnet High School, Vacaville, CA
Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter allow people to express their feeling in an uncensored way. No one can tell people what to write and update on their status therefore ideas, stories, and opinions are spread like in no time. In Tunisia and Egypt people organized protests through the “twitter revolution,” I see how this could have happened. I believe people should take advantage of the way Twitter and Facebook statuses spread by posting more positive opinions. Social media sites should be used for posting about school events or other things to promote welfare rather than accumulating people for protests. I don’t blame Tunisia & Egypt for protesting but I believe we should learn from that experience and try to be more positive about what we write on the World Wide Web.

2/11/2011

Kyle T.
Mr. Hawkins/Buckingham Charter, Vacaville/California
I believe that nobody exactly knows how powerful social network websites are today; it can be a very dangerous weapon, if used correctly. Just think about it, with around 175 Million people logging in to Facebook everyday, there is a very large window of opportunity for those who would decide to twist the responsibilities granted by the freedom of the Internet. I know of people on Facebook whom are easily persuaded, and quite gullible; if the people who are trying to start a revolution find those gullible people, then I believe that bad things can, and will happen in the World.

2/11/2011

Lloyd
Mr. Hawkins / Buckingham Charter, Vacaville, CA
Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter can easily bring about change due to the amount of people that are able to read posts simultaneously. Once something on gets started on the Internet it tends to spread extremely fast because of the way that Facebook and Twitter work allowing thousands of people to communicate not only simultaneously but near instantly. With everybody sending out information every couple of seconds it allows the followers of Twitter and Facebook an unbiased view of events that is often directly from the source. Just like the protesters in Egypt originating their revolt on Twitter. People were able to read what they were saying without the media filtering or taking a biased opinion of it and broadcasting it. However this could be a dangerous tool. Nothing on the Internet is ever “deleted” everything is recoverable. Facebook and Twitter could easily start a social change in my community simply by sending a wall post or tweet to people who think the same way that I do about a situation or a needed change. Simply by posting something to two friends, one could start something extremely big fairly easily.

2/11/2011

Colby
Mr. Hawkins/Buckingham Charter, CA/Vacaville
The impact that Facebook and Twitter have on various social issues is difficult to quantify, but it cannot be denied that they do have a significant effect. While on the surface, these social networks are just forms of communication no different than television, phones, or radios; they offer something that these other forms of communication do not, mass expression. While telephones and other communications issue a message to a limited audience, Facebook and Twitter allow an individual to broadcast their opinions, ideas, viewpoints and motivations to hundreds of viewers. Facebook and Twitter are also, (for now at least) uncensored, allowing broadcast of opinions and objective data points free of political or business agenda. In the local community, Facebook and Twitter can be used to organize a huge variety of social events. Everything from parades to county fairs to 4H to large scale fund raisers can be organized through these social network, and while the term “positive impact” is a very loaded term (few events developed by organizations or certain people.

2/11/2011

Michael
Mr. Hawkins / Buckingham Charter, Vacaville, CA
Once something gets posted on Facebook, it is open for the whole world to see. You would be amazed how fast something can spread throughout Faceboook. Not to long ago somebody put a picture of a cartoon that they used to watch when they were a little kid as their profile picture, and told people to do it also. In the matter of a flash basically everybody was doing it. Faebook and Twitter aren’t meant to ruin someone’s rep, it’s just to let people know what’s going on. If someone wants a lot of people to know something, just put it up on Twitter or Facebook. To all the people out there, if you don’t want everybody to read your status, don’t post it. Facebook and Twitter can also help people know about a business that they are starting.

2/4/2011

Albert
Greencastle-Antrim High School, Greencastle, Pennsylvania
Social media such as Twitter and Facebook are social networking sites that allow people all over the world, from many different nations to share information, stories, ideas, and opinions online instantaneously. With such freedom of information at someone’s finger tips ideas and knowledge and events are spread like wildfire. As seen in the events of Tunisia and Egypt with mass protests and great social change taking place all because Facebook and Twitter were used to help organize and spread information throughout those nations. According to TechCrunch an online news site, Tunisia was mentioned over 196 thousand times and the revolution played out over the weeks on Twitter. Having been played out over Twitter the revolution in Tunisia was dubbed the “Twitter Revolution,” by many online news sites, television news companies and several other media outlets. For example, Tunisians used Twitter to inform other Tunisians about protests that began in Sidi Bouzid and that news spread around the Tunisia and got other Tunisians thinking, “Maybe it is our turn. Maybe it is now time for us to demand change.” Twitter and Facebook can be used to bring about change because they allow people to receive information instantly, from almost anyone, and it does not come from a news media. This unprecedented flow of information and ability to organize through social media networking sites like Twitter and Facebook change the way information is received, how protests are organized. Facebook allows someone to read about events happening around the world as they are happening and from the point of view of those that are experiencing the event. Furthermore, Twitter and Facebook allow people around the world to see and read about events hours and days before some news media would publish the story or broadcast in on television. I could use Facebook or Twitter to implement a positive social change in my community by getting a coherent student discussion on school uniforms or organizing a student led event to support the football team or help out a town, city, or area of the nation that was hit by a natural disaster. Facebook and Twitter can be used to inform people about upcoming school events, sports games, or about important issues that could be discussed at the next school board meeting that could have a major effect on student life. Facebook and Twitter have many uses that are positive and can be used to implement positive social change.

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