Tweets From Tahrir
August 2011

         Who could guess that a site where we spend hours with nothing to show for it could be so revolutionary? Welcome to fast-food journalism,

written in 140 characters or less. Results can be riveting and the book Tweets from Tahrir attests to Twitter’s power. The book offers the Egyptian revolution doled out in a daily twitter feed and culminates 18 days later, with the fall of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. It is a nexus of voices from the activists at Tahrir square: from the ones who rallied on the streets to those who were tear-gassed, beaten, or arrested. One tweeter writes: “The revolution is being twitterized even with the internet being shut by the government.” Blogs never caused a revolution (yet) but this generation can safely say Facebook and Twitter did.

         The unprecedented events in Tunisia and Egypt demonstrate twitter’s dominance over traditional journalism. Twitter’s strength is its immediacy, availability, and it’s world-wide connection. Plus, anyone can use it. Type in 140 characters of what you witness/feel/experience and hit ‘enter’. It’s that easy. So alas, news is not dying but traditional journalism is. One tweeter delivers his own news commentary: “Egypt won’t stop, won’t give in. This isn’t a one day event. It’s a wave.” More tweets on the revolutionary journey read like sound bites: “Whatever the outcome, whatever ur position, go out & join ur countrymen. These are the moments where history gets made. Be part of it.”

         The freshness of Tweets from Tahrir, which pivots around the action in Tahrir Square, comes from its lack of editorial filters and its ability to transport you to the scene of a modern-day revolution started in social media and continued on the streets. It doesn’t get more cutting edge than that. Tweets can often feel disjointed and it’s hard to imagine a narrative emerging from a series of short-burst sentences. But one does, and this particular narrative is seamless, charged, and emotional. It really does read like a movie. Besides actual video footage, could a revolution have been better documented?

         Meanwhile, away from cyberspace, the youth in Tahrir square chant, “We’re the internet youth; we’re the youth of freedom” while others scrawl the words “twitter” and “facebook” on the walls of Tahrir. A tweeter adds, “This is a damn war zone, and the world is watching us!” Yes, the world was watching, reading, and participating.

         The book (nicely assembled by editors Nadia Idle and Alex Nunns) captures the spirit of the revolution, taking the reader through a day-by-day account of hope, fear, suspense, violence, and finally an awakening of what social media caused: a loss of control by the Egyptian government over its information and its people. To read this book is to know, without doubt, that social media’s impact on our world is enduring and monumental. With the revolution now blazing into Libya and Syria, cyber-activists are set to make their own history. A Syrian cyber-activist had this to say: “You can’t quash an uprising if millions of people are acting like their own independent news stations.”

         No, you can’t. And this is only the beginning.

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