Facebook did not topple Egypt
I don't want to understate the role of Facebook and Twitter in the recent events in Northern Africa and the Middle East, but let's not get carried away. It's not the medium, it's the message that sparks revolution. And while tools like Facebook and Twitter let a lot of people get their message out, important messages always seem to find a way to get out.
Aside from the fact that the revolution is happening on cell phones more than online, revolution is happening because people showed up -- some of that organizing happens on Facebook, some of the excitement is created because people see the photos on twitter.
But most of it happens because people talk.
Sure, they talk online, they talk on their phones, they forward other people's conversations… but they talk in coffeehouses and bars, they talk on the streets, they repeat what other people said.
The medium is not the message -- the message is repression and fear and desperation. When people feel their lives are getting continuously worse, they're going to talk about it. Shutting down the cell phones, turning off the Internet, and beating people into silence only goes so far.
It bothers me when I hear people giving 'social media' credit for a social uprising, because it makes it sound like the revolution would never have happened without our Internet toys and, to me, trivializes the fight and obscures the real problems.
We do have more ways to communicate than ever before, and we learn a lot of things that Walter Cronkite would never have told us in the days of monolithic news agencies. But I know that even in the blackest of news blackouts, people talk, people connect, and revolutions happen.
Even without Facebook.