From the very beginning social media has enhanced communication of people across the world thus causing negative and positive impact on society.

In late 2011, social media played a massive part in the Arab uprisings. It all began when a Tunisian street vendor, Mohammed Bouazizi, set himself on fire in a protest about the corruption within the Tunisian government.His actions ignited a massive uprising within Tunisia which was led by an online campaign. This resulted in President Ben Ali’s resignation. Similar protests and rallies swept across the Arab world in countries as small as Bahrain and as large as Egypt.

In Egypt, the death of Khaled Saeed, a young Egyptian, was the catalyst for the uprisings. A Facebook page named ‘We are all Khaled Saeed’ helped Egyptians spread the news of his death and enabled them to schedule demonstrations such as Egypt’s million man march which gave President Mubarak the final push as he resigned just 10 days later. Yemen and Bahrain also held massive protests through the use of social media. These eventually led to Yemen being free from Saleh; however Bahrain still continues to fight for freedom. At the time of the uprisings many questioned whether social networking would overthrow a government? In most cases the answer was yes.

Mideast Yemen
Anti-government protesters spray foam and wave their national flags

Also in 2011, social media was key to the riots in London. The mobility of technology shaped the London riots with social media platforms like Twitter and BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) being used. During the Tottenham riots of 1985, citizens had to head into a public place to voice their message. Yet, with access to Twitter as a communication medium, social media was used to rapidly spread messages of the riots. On reflection, many tabloids blamed Twitter, BBM and the rolling news for helping to orchestrate the rioting and for spreading triumphal images of the rioters themselves.

In the same year, on 17th September, the Occupy movement began in America with around 2,000 protesters descending on Manhattan. Twitter was the main source of communication and information about the protest due to the lack of representation in mainstream media at the time. Therefore citizen journalists and bloggers played a vital role in letting the world know about the series of events that occurred. However, mainstream media began to draw its attention to the protests when, what is called, ‘The Day of Rage’ began on 17th October. Eighty cities across the world began to march under the Twitter-hashtag Occupy. The protests around the world continued for 7 months, accumulating to around 7,000 arrested and millions and millions of tweets.

Researching and learning about these different protests, for me, clearly shows the impact and huge influence social media, in particular Twitter, has had on the way in which these protests were carried out. I feel that in some aspects the freedom that social media has given to ‘ordinary’ people is good as it allows them to have their view on any subject. The Arab protests for example has allowed freedom to occur in countries that otherwise would not have been able to speak for themselves, had social media not been available. However, I understand that there is a limit on freedom of speech within social media and that is where it is hard to distinguish between those who are using it for a positive change and those who are not.

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