Dave Pell, a contributor to the Huffington Post, succinctly comments on the role of SM in the evolving Egypt uprising . The events unfolding in the Middle East seem eerily familiar, and bring back strong memories of the fall of the Soviet Union decades ago. Only time will tell, and I’m guessin’ it won’t take long.
I’ve read dozens of comments and articles over the past 48 hours speculating on the role social media may be playing in the construct and dynamic of the uprising. Just the fact that “experts” are speculating and commenting of the role SM may be playing in the overthrow of a government is striking. I can’t keep drinking from the SM firehouse on the Egypt crisis, and I don’t need to. I’ve already formed my own initial opinions on the role of SM in this crisis and how it is being used. Feel free to disagree with me. That is why I love freedom of speech and open internet!
For the record, I am no Middle East expert. I had trouble keeping up with the Raiders of the Lost Ark movie series. But, from what I can glean from mainstream U.S. media reports, this crisis was years in the making. Like a plane crash, train wreck or any other “man-made” disaster, crisis is usually the result of a series of missteps, errors, omissions and complacency (Remember the Challenger). Historians have a target rich environment to study this current conundrum.
History and political missteps lead Egypt to this precipice, not social media. It is too easy for the media to focus on the seductive aspects of SM., and why not? All major news outlets had to reconfigure how they report news in the past couple of years. This makes it easy to make the quantum leap that a regime/government dealing with a popular citizen uprising must be the result of the capabilities of a new SM environment. The Egyptian government’s move to shut down the internet and SM sites adds fuel to this fire.
I don’t buy it. True, SM has made it easier for people to share their opinion, pain and joy. It also helps people organize around a common purpose (I love singing/dancing flashmob videos on YouTube). SM can be extremely effective in organizing those with a common passion or cause. Just don’t blame it for overthrowing a government. It is way to early for that.
For us in the EM world, we face similar circumstances during a crisis. We typically get the call as a result of a sequence of errors, omissions, commissions and/or complacency, and we step in to try and solve the problem, or at least not let it get worse. Often, it is a high visibility problem that results in the community wondering if we have our act together, and what the heck we are doing to make sure they can still get to Costco on Saturday morning (which is a disaster in itself). Citizens expect help, demand action and want answers about what happened and what we are doing to fix it. They also want to be able to know that someone is listening to their problems. Look/sound familiar? Our Agency Administrators expect us to take care of their problems too.
I’ve changed my mind. I’ll keep drinking from the #Egypt firehose for now. Too many lessons yet to be learned.