The 1970's counter-cultural poem " The Revolution Will Not Be Televised " couldn't be further from the truth today, as we see governments today shutting down social media, as "The Great Lie" is harder than ever before, as self-created content via social media has spread to the Middle East and worldwide. While President Mubarak and many throughout the Arab world survived with a strong fist, am sure that never did he dream that the biggest threat - and possibly an actual overthrow - would come from a simple technology that people entertain themselves with through 140-character messages.
Jan 25, 2011 is likely to be remembered as the day commemorating the start of the modern Egyptian revolt led by the Internet. Many will also notice when Egypt decided as an early measure to entirely disable both the internet and the wireless services implying our era's "mouths-shutting" altering basic freedoms of expression in Egypt. Social media was also found in Tunisia to be the main media for anti-government forces to mobilize, inform, and communicate with one another.
So, whereas state run media in countries like this could previously propagandize to the people messages they saw fit, today social media is a mass communications tool whereby each citizen is a journalist, giving true rise to the title and concept of citizen journalism. This of course comes on the heels of Wikileaks' whereby countries had several days of sheer anxiety before each release. The unprecedented phenomenon causing undisclosed records to reach the public amass brought up diplomatic chaos worldwide.
Political philosophers such as Immanuel Kant and John Locke addressed the issue of a government's responsibility towards its people, and social media allows people to force government to face their version of truth, whether they like it or not. New media today will result in the open -" We see images today of protestors with hand held cameras surely for Youtube, and we remember the images a few months ago of the protests in Iran -" All visuals only 30 years ago which would have very likely never reached the Western World.
The "truth' is now in the open; exposed and accessible to people instantly and vertically across most of the world. The impact -" is something we are witnessing right now. Lies and manipulations must be handled differently by dictators with this degree of transparency. It takes one person with a mobile phone to start a revolution, one network of friends on Facebook to mobilize friends and contacts around a cause, and only 140 characters to begin the route to expel a dictator out of Tunisia.
Social media has shown its potential with the simplicity of online and wireless access by individuals with passion, energy, and a just cause. While it is still uncertain whether Egyptian youngsters will achieve their end goals, the young have not disappointed as they have moved quickly and unhesitatingly to form nothing less than a "New World Order' -" utilizing new media. Perhaps state run media in many countries will also follow the lead of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez who joined Twitter a few months ago, and invited Cuban head Fidel Castro to join him on Twitter . He had previously called Twitter a potential "tool of terror" -" But maybe he realizes he has to use it as his tool of terror.
China , Syria, Iran and other South American countries are putting effort in limiting the access people have to online media and I'd strongly suggest if they want to protect themselves, they keep at it, or take classes in social media themselves.
Ronn Torossian is president and CEO of 5WPR , one of the 20 largest independent PR agencies in the U.S. Named to the "40 under 40" list of PR Week & Advertising Age, Torossian was a semi-finalist for the Ernst & Young 2010 Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and may be reached at 212-999-5585 and followed on twitter @rtorossian5wpr