STRAIGHT TALK: Networking sites are so influential

Student writer Jordan Bailey-Smith
Student writer Jordan Bailey-Smith
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WEBSITES like Facebook and Twitter are changing the way we live our lives through a new age of social interaction.

Many of us, including myself, now use these social networking sites and personally I think they are a great way of communicating with others, if used in the correct way.

The majority will chat with friends or share pieces of their lives, but these sites are now starting to be used to organise rebellion around the world.

In August last year they were used to ignite the riots in London and across the UK, helping to form mobs of people intent on looting and damaging properties in their vicinity.

In contrast we have seen them aid the overthrowing of oppressive regimes in Middle Eastern countries, bringing freedom and liberation to those who are genuinely suffering.

The domestic riots in London began after police shot dead Mark Duggan, who they initially claimed had fired at a police officer. This caused uproar in the local area, however, when it was revealed that Duggan was actually unarmed when killed.

What transpired was violence for the sake of violence, committed by opportunists who were not protesting against the injustice of Duggan’s death.

Starting via Blackberry’s messaging service, individuals began posting messages around to others in the local area, encouraging them to join in with the looting.

You could argue that there were more underlying social factors purporting to these events, and that ‘mob mentality’ is easy to become part of, but this was no reason for such widespread rebellion, unlike in the Middle East.

A video appeared on YouTube of a man setting himself alight in protest and disgust at the regime in place in Tunisia. A little extreme you might think, but nevertheless a statement that underlined the desperate reality of life for the Tunisians.

In Egypt there was a similar situation whereby the reporting of incidents of torture on anti-government protesters were showing up on social networking sites, including pictures showing the injuries.

In both countries protests were enhanced by Twitter and Facebook, on which groups were set up to organise the mobilisation of thousands of people, and as the demonstrations continued, their regimes fell.

The role of social media has been less active in subsequent uprisings in Syria, Yemen and Libya, due to governments monitoring online activity for these various sites.

There is now worldwide awareness of the impact social networking can have and if societies can use them effectively then who knows what influence they will have in 2012?