This past week, I spent Saturday evening up late lying in bed reading a book for my Psychology of Social Media course. I was focused on completing the assigned reading and unaware of the world around me.
The book I was reading was Revolution 2.0: The Power of the People is Greater Than the People in Power, a memoir by Wael Ghonim which tells the story of the Egyptian uprising in 2011 and the role social media played in creating this revolution. Before reading this book, I was highly unaware of the events that occurred during this time. Yet, I was fascinated by the transformation I saw through Ghonim’s story from despair, anger, and fear to action and ultimately revolution.
The next morning, I awoke to the news of bombings at churches on Palm Sunday. I stood frozen for a moment when I heard where it had happened.
The very place I had been reading about the night before.
Later in the week, I heard a guest lecture in my music history class on Frederic Rzewski Variations on ¡El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido! The theme of the 36 variations comes from a protest song out of Chile which translated means The People United Will Never Be Defeated. Before this lecture, I was unaware of the events that had occurred in Chile at the time of the song’s inception.
Yet, the melody of the protest song haunted me after the lecture. It was like I had heard it before but I just couldn’t place my finger on where.
So like any good student, I began to do my own research to see where else the song had been used. As I scrolled through the Wikipedia page, my eyes fixated on one piece of information. This very protest song had been used as a chant in Tunis in protests against their president at the time, Ben Ali.
In the book, Revolution 2.0, Ghonim directly states that the spreading of the news of the Tunis protests helped inspired Eygpt’s own revolution. When it came time for their protests they also chanted the same protest song.
I was no longer unaware.
The multiple little connections had woken me up to the pain of humanity in other parts of the world. I felt the pain for Chile, Egypt, and Tunis in their past and the raw pain of Eygpt yet again.
I was impacted and changed.
That’s the power of our connectedness through social media.
It doesn’t just have to wake us up to the pain of humanity but it can also wake us up to the good of humanity.
The important part is that it wakes us up and starts to stir within us the need to make an impact beyond the digital world into the real world.