Social media is increasingly being used to serve as a catalyst in bringing about social and political changes. On June 6, 2010, Khaled Mohamed Saeed was viciously murdered by two plain-clothed policemen in Egypt. He had been sitting on the second floor of a cybercafé in Alexandria when two detectives entered the premises, dragged him out, and killed him on the spot. The offices claimed that he was drug dealer who died after chocking on a packet of drugs he swallowed when he saw the policeman approach.
This claim was met with derision when photographs of Khaled’s corpse were released on the internet by his brother, showing Khaled’s deformed face, fractured skull, dislocated jaw and various other signs of brutal death. The pictures went viral, causing huge public outcry, contributing to the growing outrage in the weeks leading up to the Egyptian revolution of January, 2011. A Facebook page called “we are all Khaled Muhammad Said” was created by Wael Ghonim (then Head of Marketing, Google Middle East ), and the page become the center for the dissenters’ online discussions, attracting thousands of supporters, thus becoming Egypt’s biggest dissidents Facebook page ever.
Khaled’s example is only one of the many cases where effects of social media served as a platform to unite people for the cause. On January 18, 2011, Asmaa Mahfouz, a young Egyptian activist, posted a video on Facebook calling on all Egyptians to demand their social rights and to raise their voices against the oppressive dictator Hosni Mubarak. The video was uploaded on YouTube and went viral. Buoyed by Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution, the Egyptians gathered en masse on 25 January 2011, and the turnout culminated into an 18-day uprising, which eventually topped Hosni Mubarak. The massive campaigns on social media played a tremendous role in the Egyptian revolution, which is why it is often dubbed as ‘’The Social Media Revolution’’ or ‘’Facebook Revolution’’ by social media pundits.
Revolution or change is not something which is possible by merely joining Facebook and ‘liking’ pages which have the words ‘revolution’ or ‘change’ on them. While social media can, and does, serve as a platform to organize and unite, it requires determination, the will to sacrifice and the boldness to withstand the challenges posed by opposing forces.