The ineffectiveness of Egypt’s social media
Egyptians, who tend to express their opinions on every issue and event on social media, are living in a virtual reality show. They are expending their energy in a negative context that is not helping our country to progress. Social media in Egypt — Facebook in particular — has become a platform where thousands, perhaps millions of Egyptians express nonsensical ideas and act irresponsibly in an arena where there is effectively no accountability.
Ideas by default are supposed to move nations forward. To achieve this, they must be linked to tangible goals. We in Egypt tend to separate ideas and goals; we produce ideas solely to appear knowledgeable, then act in whatever manner suits our desires, often in contradiction with our ideas.
Exploiting the unlimited opportunities for posting comments on Facebook seems to have become a mission for many Egyptians, who probably never wonder if they could expend their energy in alternative fields.
The aridness of the Egyptian political sphere has resulted in an overcrowded social media presence. We have politicized social media to express our frustrations, an end that is completely unrelated to the true mission of politics: Generating realistic resolutions to our challenges.
The ability to produce ideas regularly while not being held accountable for our actions seems to suit us well. Egyptians believe that constantly expressing their opinions on social media makes them genuine activists and politicians. Although a few bloggers have thousands of followers, they are an exception to the mainstream of Egyptian social media users who believe they know more and their opinions truly matter.
Moreover, popular bloggers do not necessarily present sensible ideas. Their popularity might be based on their attractive jargon that entertains people, or on the kind of heated debates that they manage. Bloggers might broaden citizens’ viewpoints, but they do not constitute an alternative to politicians whose role is to mobilize and unite citizens.
The weakening of the political sphere and of civil society is leading citizens to spend hours over-expressing their anger on social media. Being trapped in a virtual reality makes it hard to engage in real life.
The hours allocated by thousands of Egyptians daily to social media could be spent in other fields that yield higher returns. Probably the only equality in life is the 24 hours a day that humans have at their disposal. Realizing our capacities and skills gives us different outputs, but citizens who spend their days in productive pursuits receive greater returns on their time investments. However, this situation is not entirely the fault of Egyptian citizens.
The government does not prompt them to engage in voluntary productive projects. President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who is always asking Egyptians to spare some money for the state, should consider advocating for a campaign asking us to devote an hour of our time to our country. Imagine 100 million people, two-thirds of them young, each volunteering an hour a day; millions of hours could transform our nation in a wide variety of fields.
Egyptians find social media to be a perfect platform for articulating comments for which they will not be held accountable, one that allows them to “unfriend” people who disagree with them. Social media is playing a destructive role of stirring up citizens’ anger against the state and enabling them to exchange accusations of betrayal; it is draining our energy without providing any benefit.
The weakening of the political sphere and of civil society is leading citizens to spend hours over-expressing their anger on social media. Being trapped in a virtual reality makes it hard to engage in real life. The recent (and quite unfeasible) proposal by an Egyptian MP to block social media and exact fees on posted content might defuse the virtual struggle, but it will not solve the problem.
We need to channel the energy of the Egyptian people constructively. We can only do so by prompting them to engage in real life. Social media should not be the central component of our lives.
• Mohammed Nosseir, a liberal politician from Egypt, is a strong advocate of political participation and economic freedom. He can be reached on Twitter @MohammedNosseir.