Social media pulls us apart.
That seems to the conclusion of the New York Times‘s Thomas Friedman, after he talked with Wael Ghonim earlier this month. Ghonim is the young Egyptian who in 2010 created a Facebook page to protest the death of another young Egyptian at the hands of the police.
Ghonim told Friedman that within three days the page had 100,000 connections. In less than a year, during the Arab Spring, protesters helped topple the government of President Hosni Mubarak. Ghonim’s Facebook page is credited with having helped fuel the protest movement.
But then, Friedman writes, it all went sideways:
Alas, the euphoria soon faded, said Ghonim, because “we failed to build consensus, and the political struggle led to intense polarization.” Social media, he noted, “only amplified” the polarization “by facilitating the spread of misinformation, rumors, echo chambers and hate speech. The environment was purely toxic. My online world became a battleground filled with trolls, lies, hate speech.”
The new government that was installed in Mubarak’s place was itself overthrown in 2013 by the Egyptian Army.
Ghonim told Friedman that he’s spent a lot of time since then thinking about what happened. Continue reading