Written by Tim Takechi
Egypt is a nation known for its rich ancient history, breathtaking pyramids, and being the cradle of human civilization.
But as recent anti-government protests have demonstrated, Egyptians are not afraid to employ cutting edge technology to earn the freedoms they desire.
The 2011 anti-government street protests in Egypt stem from almost three decades of near-totalitarian rule of President Hosni Mubarak. Demanding free elections and true democratic liberties, protesters have bravely taken to the streets to express their yearning for political change.
So far hundreds of protesters have been imprisoned. Many have been physically beaten by law enforcement. But despite the violence we have witnessed on TV, this movement is all the more inspiring because of the youth aspect behind it.
Student protesters have played a significant role in spreading pro-democracy ideas by handing out leaflets and communicating through social media channels like Facebook and Twitter. Wait, Facebook and Twitter, you say?
Americans use these sites for fun. Egyptians are using them for social revolution.
Al Jazeera reports that Egyptian authorities have shut down Internet access and mobile communication services to quell the spread of anti-Mubarak sentiment. This is without a doubt an indication that even powerful governments are aware of the importance of social media and youth activism in the 21st century.
A prominent youth movement called the “April 6 Youth Movement” formed in 2008 to support labor strikers in El-Mahalla El-Kubra, an industrial town in northern Egypt. Young people in their early 20s started the “April 6 Youth Movement” to demand a right to free speech and transparency from government authorities.
Leaders of the movement used Facebook to organize protest events. Employing peaceful non-violent protest techniques, police crackdown of members of this group is proof that this movement was genuinely upsetting the status quo.
But why? What power does Facebook or Twitter really have? Obviously, enough to prompt Egyptian security forces to jail activists and journalists affiliated with the “April 6 Youth Movement.”
And you thought Facebook was for wasting time!
Young people in America should take notice of what is happening right now in Egypt because it serves as a bright example that youth can make a positive impact in their communities when they have the will to do it.
You don’t need loads of money or complex communication systems to organize a peaceful demonstration. All you need is an Internet connection, a Facebook account, and the strength to go through with it.
This strength includes the unmoving will to express your ideas freely without personal censorship, the burning desire for your ideas to be implemented, and the intelligence to know how to rally a group of people behind ideals rather than raw emotion.
Raw emotion can create short-term change, but rarely long-term positive change.
Social media is, inherently, a very democratic system. There is no censorship (except by cutting off Internet access) or mediums to communicate through. You decide the message. The only thing the outside world can do it consume it and come up with their own conclusions.
What is happening in Egypt demonstrates the power of social media and how underrated it is to the general American public. Obviously, what is happening over there isn’t perfect, but it showcases the possibilities of what can be.
Replicating this sort of success is not easy. Social reform is never easy. But it is easier to jump into the fire together with your friends than alone with only yourself as company.
Young people in Egypt are not letting fear stand in the way of fighting for a more open and just society. Why should any of us?