In the last few years, we have become enamored by social media and its ability to give us real time information. Recent turn of events in Egypt has shown that this excitement is premature.
While there are a handful of people on the ground in Egypt who have been able to keep tweeting they are almost all from major news outlets like Al-Jazeera and CNN (here are a few interesting journalists on the ground reporting in real time) the average man on the street has been silenced by the country’s internet blackout. What this boils down to is that twitter is only as effective as the bandwidth that it is based on. Take that away and the average person is no better able to communicate than they were 100 years ago (in fact, Morse code would be an improvement in communication at this point.)
In one swift and simple maneuver Mubarak has shown the world the elephant in the room- the internet is only as reliable as the people who provide it. That the “power of social media” is an illusion and the government is ultimately in control. (Of course, this is at the expense of the entire Egyptian economy which will most likely tank and take months if not years to recover from being cut off from the world since Jan 25th.)The flip side, of course, is that if the internet was up then there would be an absolute flood of information would make it almost impossible to make sense of what was happening. Not to mention to opportunity for the government to control accounts and provide false information creating a whole new layer of confusion.