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  • Audrey Cleo

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    the revolution will be RT’d.

    Protesters in the streets of Egypt.


    The civil unrest in Egypt has put social media squarely in the spotlight as a means of organizing a political revolution. Twitter, Facebook and the web in general had been communication and organization hubs for protesters until the Egyptian government shut down Internet and cellular phone access last Friday. Mobile phone networks will continue to be shut down ahead of Tuesday’s planned Million-Man Marches.

    For those of us with the luxury of using it so, social media is a tool by which we can cull information, communicate with our friends and family and – probably more often than not – indulge in some self-importantness by broadcasting the mundane minutiae of our lives to the willing, reading masses. The “I’m eating a burrito LOL” tweets and status updates. So when social media is used as a tool for tangible change, it reminds me that connectivity in the modern age goes beyond just being able to keep tabs on your favorite blogger just ate for lunch. It makes me reflect upon what I’ve been using it for.

    This isn’t to knock how some of us are tweeting or status updating or self-publishing. I’ve tweeted my fair share of inane info. I fully support FEARnet‘s Tweet Like a Zombie Day and would have totally added something to #hipstersitcoms had I had anything clever to add (“Square Peg Leg Jeans”?). Our social media addiction, though, has caused some to say it’s bred a generation of slacktivists: Millennials sit behind laptops, dutifully changing avatars green when revolution asks for it but doing little that is tangible or actually effective. What’s happening in Egypt is a direct affront to that idea. Last Friday’s unprecedented move by the government to shut down the Internet was an effort to discourage protest organizing but backfired as thousands took to the streets, perhaps in greater numbers than would have had the web remained up and running.

    But it also reaffirms that change, while organized and partly catalyzed online, still happens on the ground. Whatever the outcome in Egypt, I think the term “slacktivist” in reference to an Internet-savvy generation needs to be shelved. There is nothing slacker-y about connecting digitally and taking those connections into the streets in fervent protest, especially when the former has been disabled. It’s important to also note that while the Internet might facilitate change, it isn’t the sole impetus of it.

    Below, a video compilation of footage from the streets of Egypt.

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