Effecting Positive Local Change in a Globalized World through Social Media

Effecting Positive Local Change in a Globalized World through Social Media

In this globalized era, new information and communication technologies have undoubtedly altered the functioning of social movements as well as the dynamics of political change. Social media is one of the most influential global forces for social and political change with proven success in effecting localized change in different parts of the world. Billions of people all over the world are connected through various social media channels (Khondker 676). The role of the medium in facilitating political change in different parts of the world where totalitarian regimes have been the mainstay has revealed its central position in the modern world. That social media was instrumental in catalyzing the Arab Spring that started in 2010 is a manifestation of how a global technological force can be employed in effecting change at a local scale. As noted by Stepanova, social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter were instrumental in facilitating the rapid disintegration of totalitarian regimes in Tunisia and Egypt while also serving as tools for sociopolitical mobilization in Bahrain and Syria (3). It then begs the question: To what extent are global forces such as the social media, which are instruments of promoting political change at local scope, effective at transforming the cultural proclivities gravitating against democracy? By observing the trajectory of the Arab Spring in different parts of the Middle East, it becomes apparent that while social media has the capability to influence political action, it is incapable of restructuring the cultural and political proclivities that are anti-democracy as exemplified in the reemergence of new totalitarian regimes in Egypt and Tunisia and other Arab nations.

Overview of the Events Leading to the Arab Spring

The Democratic uprisings that started in 2011 in Tunisia relied significantly on social media to enhance their effectiveness in facilitating political changes throughout the Arab world. Though the changes that were triggered that time still have an effect today, the intended democratic reforms did not last as anticipated (Salanova 3). As noted by Rinnawi, the outcomes and the lasting impact of the protests triggered during the time are not certain making the issue one of the most discussed in the existing scholarship (4). Since social media played a critical role in facilitating the protests, it is necessary to assess the extent to which social media promoted the political changes and its ineffectiveness to establish lasting democratic ideals. This follows the realization that while some of the despots who had sustained their totalitarian regimes in some of the Arab nations were deposed, the intended changes in the entire system were not achieved at the end of the day. In some instances, such as in Libya, the aftermath of the resistance has been more detrimental compared to how life was during the times Muammar Gadhafi (Khondker 678).

State control over traditional media channels has been a common practice in the Arab world. Despite that the control mechanisms and censorship rules differed from one nation to the other, the patterns of control ensured that information sharing and the enactment of public discourse was kept under strict control. As noted by Mark Lynch, an expert on Arab world politics, government censorship on the traditional media channels had negatively impacted the public avenues in which political debate could be undertaken before the Arab Spring (302). For instance, the broadcast media, as well as the press, were under the direct control of the political elites and the state mechanisms leaving no space for any organized political opposition as facilitated through the media. Therefore, the context made it possible for the application of social media activism, which was already taking shape in other parts of the world.

However, the regulation of the transnational satellite broadcasting channels covering the entire Arab world introduced fresh challenges to the regimes that sought to establish total control over the media. As noted by Rinnawi, this happens to be the most pervasive challenge confronting the state dominance over the media in the recent history of the Arab world (5). However, as pointed out by Salanova, this challenge was countered remarkably through the introduction of state-sponsored transnational media capable of countering the impact of the cross-border satellite broadcasting (6). In other instances, policies and laws were enacted to restrict the ownership of satellite equipment or even the ownership of cable devices that would give them access to the international radio and TV broadcasts (Lynch 303). In Egypt, for instance, there were measures taken by the government of Mubarak to ban the ownership of cable TV equipment, which worked remarkably well for the regime (Lynch 303). However, the technological advances taking place in the global scale presented yet a different challenge for the totalitarian regimes aiming to restrict the access of political messages and interactions. As of the 2010s, socia

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