Social Media and Social Exchange theory

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IN the recently concluded campaign for re-election, Barack Obama posted more than 250 videos on Youtube. He was not using Youtube to broadcast his material. Rather, he would link these videos in emails that followed.

Thus, in targeting up to one hundred micro groups throughout the country Barack Obama was able to ensure that minority populations such as African Americans, Latinos, women, gays and lesbians and the youth, especially those voting for the first time gave him their votes. He had about eight hundred field officers  monitoring the social media. It is not for nothing that both his tweet announcing his victory to his virtual political base as well as his embrace of his wife before his victory speech went viral to become the most re-tweeted message and photograph ever!

Social Media and the fall of Hosni Mubarak, President of Egypt

One of the jokes doing the rounds in Tahrir (Liberation) Square during the protest demonstrations against President Hosni Mubarak had it that Mubarak died and was met in Heaven by his two previous predecessors Gamal Abdul Nasser and Anwar Sadat. Nasser died peacefully in his bed September 1970  while Sadat was assassinated by his bodyguards in October 1981. Both wanted to know what killed Hosni Mubarak. He answered simply: Facebook!

On June 6 2010, a 28 year old man Khaled Said was beaten to death by the Egyptian police. Pictures of his mutilated body appeared on the social media. In January 2011 Wael Ghonim, the marketing executive in Egypt, created the Facebook Page entitled “We are all Khaled” and to mark his death muted a demonstration for January 25th 2011. For this, Wael Ghonim was detained in solitary confinement for thirty days. In the meantime, a number of leaders of different groups met on 20th January to plan for the protest demonstration on the 25th of January. Some of the groups included Kifaya (Enogh), the Youth-based April 16 Movement, Karama, HASHD the popular Democratic Movement for Change, the Justice and Freedom Youth Movement and the Revolutionary Socialists.

The plan was to get tens of thousands of Egyptians onto the streets on January 25th and for them to stay there until Hosni Mubarak resigned. They were demanding justice, freedom, citizen rights and an end to Mubarak’s thirty year rule.

The organisers were public university graduates in their 20s. They asked people to gather in different street corners of Cairo and to bring cameras to record and document police brutality which they were sure would take place. To lobby for the support of the people, the organisers used Twitter and Facebook.

Sixty per cent of Egypt’s eighty million populations are youths under the age of 25 years. No wonder, the hastily appointed vice president  Suleiman threatened to advice parents to tell their children to stay away from the streets of Cairo, a statement that annoyed the protesters. The organisers composed a rap song, they made a video plea by the mother of Khaled Said and formed Facebook groups to encourage people to join the protest.

Tweet and text messages circulated during the protest demonstrations giving information as to where demonstrations and security and thugs were, when they would arrive at particular points and who was wounded, arrested, disappeared or killed and in terms of this  last item calling for ambulances to come and convey people to hospitals. One of the songs that circulated said:
Christians or Muslims
It’s not important
Similar poverty
Similar concerns
Hosni Mubarak
Hosni Mubarak
The plane is waiting
The plan is waiting
Saudi Arabia is not far!
Photo sites had pictures of empty tear gas canister, with the zoom focussing on ‘Made in USA’
At a point when there was a low in the demonstrations, a tweet circulated saying: “Dont forget that in Tunisia it took a month. Egypt is bigger, it will take more.’

A 26-page pdf document entitled “Manual to the Egyptian Revolution” circulated as an email. “It contains a list of tools, clothes, marching routes and so on,” says the email. Further it admonished the reader: “Please spread using only email, home printers, and local photocopiers. Do not spread using Facebook or Twitter as they are heavily monitored by Egyptian intelligence.”
In no time at all (28th and 29th January 2011) Facebook, Twitter and Internet were shut down.

Soon after this, mobile networks were also shut down. All were soon re-opened and it was possible to send updates by the second. The language of the social media was so pervasive that civilians patrolling neighbourhoods against government-sponsored criminals and thugs used passwords, changed daily, to admit residents. One of the placards carried in Tahrir Square said: “Mubarak, Shift + Delete”.

On February 11 2011, Hosni Mubarak resigned as president of Egypt. It was the triumph of the social media.

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