Freedom may be just a tweet, status update or blog post away.
In the inaugural book in her Working Class Rising series, “The Middle East Revolutions: A Framework for Analysis,” author Catherine Claxton-Dong analyzes various revolutions across time and discusses how each reacts to different motivations. She suggests that the recent uprisings in Egypt and Libya were driven by an intense upwelling of emotion that can be hard to sustain over a long period of time.
Social media can help provide the emotional support necessary to fuel the rebellion.
“People can support Libyans emotionally or help to develop a groundswell of such feeling here in the United States, which can lead to more media attention, more donations and more government aid,” Claxton-Dong wrote in an e-mail interview.
According to Claxton-Dong, American students can make a difference in the battle overseas.
“We have some brave friends in Libya right now trying to make the world a better place,” said Claxton-Dong, who earned her Ph.D. in government from Cornell University. “We should let them know we care about them.”
On Facebook, she suggests liking comments and pages that support Libya as well as sharing pictures of homemade T-shirts and crafts that support the cause.
“Imagine how good people in Libya would feel if Facebook users were to change their profile picture for a few days to something that supports Libyans,” she said.
On Twitter, she recommends using the hashtag #libya to join the conversation and get in contact with Libyan citizens.
“Express support and ask if there are specific things you can do for any one family, to create bonds that both you and your new friends can relate to and take comfort in,” Claxton-Dong said.
Some students, like Mariam Almasi, feel that social media is an important tool in the fight for democracy.
“It’s like sending an indirect message showing support to those against Gadhafi,” Almasi said. “Giving them a sense of unity that they are not alone in their beliefs.”
However, students like freshman Stephanie Martin are cynical about the impact of social media.
“What does liking a Facebook page have to do with helping with something in another country?” Martin said.
She believes that there are other ways to support democracy.
“We show our support for democracy by being a democracy,” Martin said. “They are going to believe what they are going to believe. That’s how we got into the Iraqi War, trying to change other people’s opinions.”
Alysha Khan may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and Lindsay Brown may be contacted at email@example.com.