Tremendous hoopla surrounds the use of Twitter, Facebook, social media and technology in the downfall of Mubarak. As someone who began working in the technology industry twenty years ago and has seen its transformative power, I believe the use of social media and technology in Egypt was definitely a facilitator for the Egyptian revolution, maybe an enabler, but certainly not a cause or primary factor. The rapid transfer of political ideas among those who want to rebel predates the mobile phone.
Iranians listened to smuggled cassette tapes of the exiled Ayatollah Khomeini prior to the 1979 revolution. As a teenager in the 1970s, I listened to a speech by a Soviet dissident (Sorry, I can’t remember who.) who spoke of using carbon paper to make and distribute illicit copies of the outlawed Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in the Soviet Union. He and his fellow purveyors of Samizdat or underground literature debated whether to use thicker paper which would produce three copies or thin, onionskin paper which would produce five rather perishable copies. They ultimately decided to use the thicker paper to ensure that the words would last and be distributed to as many people as possible.
The message is more important than the medium. Ultimately, what matters is the will of the people. Bastardizing Gil Scott-Heron’s, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, Egyptian people were “… in the street looking for a brighter day.”