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Social media: A mover of change

Updated on November 14, 2011

What counts in the world today is the social media, new methods of social networking online. The cyberspace buzzword is claiming new meaning as more and more people are clinging to platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

More and more people in the Arab world are using them than ever before. While Twitter is still trailing behind, it is Facebook that is the definite buzzword, the new creator of social space in the world of the Internet. They are seen as major tools in the last Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions in early 2011.

Latest statistics put the figure at 32 million users, a phenomenal 50 percent increase between January till August of 2011 and the figure is rising as more and more people establish connection online.

There is a big surge across the Arab world from Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates till Morocco, passing through Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia and so on. Indeed such a platform could just be cracking the walls of patriarchy and matriarchy and realigning social relationships and even heralding change in attitudes and giving people a new sense of freedom, liberty and ability to act.

The youth factor has become very important in today's social media. Facebook has made major international inroads not only among youths in the world but also in the Arab region. Around 75 percent of users of the social platform are between the 15 to 29 age groups according to figures by the Dubai School of Government.

Arab youths are finding opening a Facebook accounts liberates them and establishes them online as a new means of cyber communications with their friends, colleagues and acquaintances. Such relationships as well have become reinforced, rejuvenated, strengthened and replenished.

Above all new and vigorous form of debate is being fought on platforms like Facebook with ordinary people in the Arab world no longer afraid to speak out, and adopting a free-for-all attitude, no longer allowing themselves to stay silent as it was the case in the past.

Today more and more users from the region are communicating with people openly discussing such topics as Islam, violence, terrorism political events and the Hijab. In one case, probably among the many which are happening in forums, a young woman was attacked by two American bloggers, telling her that Islam is oppressive and restricts women.

She replied "here I am talking to you, and I don't see anyone restricting over conversing with you." And the debate continued for a good few hours over the rights of women, violence against women, the role of Islam, etc.

Obviously as more and more of these exchanges take place, more cracks in the wall begin happen and theoretically there should be more understanding but in the above case the level of conversation was very low. Some of the comments made by the two American gentlemen to the young Muslim lady were:

"Women over there can't go to the beach", "they can't wear sexy cloths", "they can't go to the bar even if it's for a friendly drink." These comments are indeed frivolous and shows that we are really still living in two worlds were a wall of ignorance continues to persist.

What it means as well these social media tools can break down the wall and bring about change through interaction.

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