“A question guys, what will we do if the ElBaradei issue fails?”
“Seriously guys, what more can happen to us?”
“We need change!”
“I’m fed up with the internet and everything on it, nothing happens in reality.”
These are just examples of thousands of comments posted on the Facebook group page of the former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei. Today, ElBaradei is one of the most popular Arab figures on the social networking website, and more than 200,000 people have joined his group in less than three months.
This number is not insignificant if we take into account the fact that the number of people who join Arab politicians’ groups (and they are a minority in any case) does not exceed 20,000 members. Although ElBaradei does not respond to questions on a daily basis, the website displays his recent news and his positions, and provides answers to questions asked by members. However the true value of this group is in the discussion that is taking place between members, whether they are supporters or opponents of ElBaradei.
This is not about ElBaradei’s chances of standing in or winning the forthcoming [Egyptian presidential] elections, as this is a separate issue that has its own considerations that transcend the ongoing discussion on the internet. Rather what draws one’s attention is the massive and rapid influence of modern communication technology, something that Arab politicians and others cannot ignore.
The most recent French general elections included 34 candidates, all of whom had their own Facebook pages, and 30 of whom could be followed on Twitter. The same applies to other western politicians; however nobody excels at utilizing social networking sites more than US politicians. For example, more than 60 US members of Congress can be found on Twitter, while President Obama’s page on Facebook has more than 8 million members.
Obama previously stated that modern techniques and tools may result in information becoming a source of distraction, a diversion, and a form of entertainment. This opinion shocked many people, especially since social networking websites like Facebook were utilized by Obama in his US presidential election victory.
Whether we like it or not, international social networking sites contribute to forming local and international opinion, and if this is something that does not influence decision making now then it will in the future.
In one of the comments posed on ElBaradei’s page, a commentator wrote “communication is good, but what is the result?” The answer is that this will cause a change and not just in the long term, as the information revolution that was followed by a revolution in the manner in which information is organized and classified will cause a change in future awareness. We have the right to differ in opinion with Obama with regards to information, and even if information does appear in the form of entertainment and distracts us, this information has the ability to bring about change, and there are numerous examples of this.