In his weekly column in the New York Times, Thomas Friedman reminds us of how hopeful we have been, with respect to the Internet and “Facebook Revolutions.” Yet, from the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street the uncomfortable fact is that most Internet revolutions have not led to sustainable new political solutions. Social media may be better at breaking things apart than putting things together. Wael Ghonim, an Egyptian Google employee, posted a Ted Talk, explaining how he helped launch the Arab Spring with his Facebook page. President Hosni Mubarak, was brought down in the Internet inspired revolution, but it then failed to create a true democracy.
There are problems with the internet; it’s great at spreading rumors and confirming previously held biases. Often with Social Media we limit communications to like-minded people; we“unfriend,” mute or tune out opposing views, limiting our understanding; internet discussion can become shouts from angry mobs. And quick, not well-thought-out postings of pictures, and texts of 140 characters go to live on the Internet forever.
Ghonim’s talk concluded that the Internet favors broadcasting over engagement, posts over discussions, shallow comments over deep conversation. As he says, “It’s as if we agreed that we are here to talk at each other, instead of talking with each other.” Today, Ghonim believes it is the internet that needs to be liberated.
Intelligent conversation can be found at a new website Parlio.com a site founded by Ghonim and a few of his friends.