Brief Reflections on Social Media Engagement: Arab World Edition

I have first-ever used tiwtter in 2009, but really without much to do with real using. It was pretty much closed to a universe of people who text each other what I viewed as unclear messaging and too much cumbersome happening on cell phones with the privilege of Internet connectivity. That has changed in late 2010. It was not precisely Tunis revolution which made me more interested in the platform, but in fact was Egypt’s.

Events were taking place simultaneously in Egypt, and later on, other countries in the larger Arab world countries. And with that began my “effective” journey with Social Media. Was never a fan of Facebook myself, although I understand that it has been such a medium which 90% of my friends and colleagues have been using forever. But over almost more than five years of using Twitter, I feel tried and bothered.

No naivety here, I have learnt the medium while its usage was gradually developing at times when it seemed that because of what happened here, and only here, it became what it is now: a tool that let anyone say what they want to say with a delivery promise to over millions of users. But emphasizing that does not bring any comfort. The twitter medium, albeit platform’s conditions (restrictions) on hate speech and violence content, is also a medium that allows people to say the “bad” things- real nasty thoughts that boundaries of politeness would consider as blasphemy.

I grew tired over the past years as I strived to share messaging that cant be hostage to one side’s preference(s); that may not signal absolute approval of one side’s action and messaging that reflects the views of only one person- that is myself.

And “sides” grew significantly over past years. Their best common characteristic is that they have no intention to consider others’ existence and beyond that, they accommodate you if you pushed the same buttons they push. Otherwise, they eat you up; bombard you with scary thoughts and intimidation and limit you to a past and a presence of only one tweet. That’s the entire universe at such times.

And I grew bothered, because as the population of audience is growing significantly, we seem to have hit the place where memory does not exist (its what you say now, only in this tweet); credibility is a question rather than a standard and that information exist only if it has been spelled out by a certain post. I am bypassing respect, tolerance and decency since that is an unwanted discussion with no real interest to pursue.

In a way, information technology potentially promised to remove information flow barriers. Well, it did remove barriers, but hardly those related to information that leads to knowledge. Or maybe worst, some barriers emerged as the technology developed further: those of language, culture, religion, sectarianism, regionalism and so on. We have removed the blanket which didn’t let people see each other, and when we did that- when people saw each other- they hated each other more. That’s in brief, the Arab World Edition!

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