Will you sleep walk through the revolution?

I just took a look at Facebook and was disappointed to see how many of my “friends” have been commenting on everything BUT what is going on in the Middle East. OK, so I know I care about this stuff; you can’t have three university degrees in international relations and NOT notice things like revolutions.  But, I am surprised at how few people in my network are taking the time to comment. At the very least, the issue of how Facebook and twitter are used in organising and reporting might have attracted some interest.  But, no- my wall is full of the usual bits and pieces of people going out, partying, tagging photos of each other, etc.  You wouldn’t know that the most extraordinary changes of the past thirty years are underway.

 One of the key ingredients of a “PR person” (in my humble opinion) is that they should be plugged into the world, caring about what is happening, seeing the big picture and being able to understand what trends mean. And what is happening now is …history being made. In the same way as it was when the Berlin Wall was falling, Nelson Mandela was walking free, the twin towers were collapsing on 9/11. Wake up! Stuff is happening that will change your lives and the world around you!

 I often talk about “super hero PR”- when communication makes a BIG change. What is going on in the Middle East just now is a case of ordinary people creating BIG change through communication. If you thought the political machine in the UK was hard to change, consider how difficult it is in dictatorships where dissident voices are silenced by secret police, torture and tanks.  Yet, communication has overturned the status-quo in not one, not two, but now three- and more are on the way. Wow- that is EXCITING!

 I realised the links between the news and life at an early stage- watching TV when I was 13 years old when Soviet tanks rolled into Prague, when Yasser Arafat addressed the UN, when Robert Kennedy was assassinated, when African national liberation wars competed with black power, feminism and Viet Nam for the headlines.  Maybe that makes me different?

 I can’t help it- consider this an official rant: if you are serious about communication, then get serious about how it is being used to change the world. Pay attention and think about what it means…..  I think that what is happening is SEISMIC- and will end up changing the world far more than 9/11 did. I also think it will not end up anywhere near where the American and Western pundits are talking about. We (in the West) see the Arab world through a prism of our own prejudices and cultural/political imperialism. All this stuff in the papers about “democratic change” simply does not get it. Disagree? Tell me why….


About catherinesweet
Academic, professional, communicator, stakeholder in a dozen different disguises

6 Responses to Will you sleep walk through the revolution?

  1. Good point. But I’m sure you also find yourself, like me, commenting on momentous events such as the collapse of European communism in 1989 before realising that our students weren’t even born then.

    We get to choose what we talk about in lectures and seminars. It’s always revealing (and sometimes humbling) when students set the agenda, and we have to comment instead on their interests.

    We were a much more political generation but not necessarily better informed. I was unaware of the plight of the Palestinians until sharing a walking holiday with a (Christian) Palestinian on one of my student vacations. Where was the political TV drama like Channel 4’s The Promise back then?

  2. Jane Crofts says:

    OK so you have officially made me feel guilty! The Middle East and its events have occupied a good deal of dinner table conversation in this house, led by my 18 year old son (swells with pride). Perhaps I should have posted more on Facebook and Twitter to stir some thoughts amongts others.
    Personally I have felt overwhelmed by the strength of the drive for change, I applaud it but it also scares me a little.

  3. Few people have serious sociopolitical discussions on Facebook.

    During the first days of the Egyptian revolution I trid following #Egypt a little and there were literally thousands of tweets a minute. Following #Libya now and you’ll see a very similar thing, not quite at the same pace, but still very interesting.

    It’s not that we aren’t talking about it, you’re just looking in the wrong places. It’s as common now to talk about an event as it happens as it is to discuss it afterwards, we’re not waiting around for the paper to come to our door anymore.

  4. Paul Taylor says:

    I agree with Rob about many people not having more serious conversations on Facebook, which I think is because more ‘in-depth’ conversations often take place on blogs and (occasionally) message board forums. Within my ‘friends’ list of around 400 I can think of maybe a dozen who could coherently talk about a subject so complex.

    On a personal level I probably should take more of an active interest in what’s going on, but I think that it’s too easy to put emphasis on social media being a tool for change – after last year’s student riots the news agenda did certainly seem to place emphasis (or blame) on the speed at which the protests turned into riots because of protesters communicating using Facebook and Twitter.

    I worry that trending topics on Twitter are becoming less and less of a barometer of what’s actually going on in the world now – like Rob said, searches for #Egypt and #Libya are likely to update just as fast on Tweetdeck as #xfactor would on the Saturday evenings on the weeks leading into Christmas, which makes it almost impossible to actually read what’s going on, but I suppose at least it means that people might be aware that something is happening.

    Anyway, that’s just my thoughts, back to doing some uni work…

  5. Interesting comments- and I wasn’t really suggesting that people aren’t TALKING about it; just that it was conspicuous by its absence on my friends’ Facebook and twitter accounts. I use BOTH to publicise my blog, where I do more serious comment and observation, but had not spotted anyone else in my PR network commenting/blogging or tweeting. Like you, Rob, I tried to keep up with Twitter during the Egyptian protests, but with so many involved using it constantly, it was hard to make sense of it. And, like a phone system in the middle of a national emergency, I felt it was better to leave it to those who really NEEDED it, rather than the casual observer. But, I do watch PR blogs and there hasn’t been much on this, or even on the use of the two media during the student protests closer to home. Hmmmm- what does that tell you about PR?

    • Maria says:

      I’m quite interested in what’s been going on in the Middle East and discuss it every day. I know it’s just me being interested in politics but as Rob and Paul said – people generally talk about it. Unfortunately I can’t think of more than twenty of people who have sufficient knowledge to comment on it and most of them happen to be people from the Middle East. Thanks to them I joined various group devoted to the revolutions and I was amazed by how fast so many people post, comment and update information so that everybody can see it! Most groups members are predominantly from the Arab world but interestingly enough 95% of posts are in English – probably for the few people like. I find it very kind and nice from them! I’m even able to compare what Western media say to what’s been reported in my own country and in the Middle East. It’s very exciting and interesting, especially if you are writing your dissertation (like me) on such a topic.

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