Egyptians, who tend to express their opinions on every single issue and event on social media venues, are living in a virtual reality show! They are unleashing their energy in a negative context that is already overpopulated and certainly not helping our country to move a single inch forward. Social media in Egypt – Facebook in particular – has become a platform where thousands, perhaps millions, of Egyptians express their 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 and 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 for the purpose of expressing 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 suite us quite 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 wherein every citizen believes that he knows more and that his opinion truly matters. Moreover, popular bloggers don’t 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 don’t constitute an alternative to politicians whose role is to work on mobilizing and uniting citizens.
Following social media closely prompts me to think that the hours allocated by thousands of citizens daily to social media could be spent much more productively in other fields that would yield higher returns for Egyptians! Probably, the only equality in life is the 24 hours a day that each human being has at his disposal. Of course, the realization of our capacities and skills gives us different outputs; however, citizens who spend their days in productive pursuits certainly receive greater returns on their time investments.
Nevertheless, this situation is not entirely the fault of Egyptian citizens; the Egyptian government doesn’t prompt its citizens to engage in voluntary productive projects. President Al Sisi, who is always requesting Egyptians to spare some of their 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 inhabitants, two-thirds of whom are young people, each volunteering an hour a day; millions of hours could transform our nation in a wide variety of diversified fields.
Egyptians find social media to be a perfect platform for articulating comments for which they will not be held accountable, one that even gives them the privilege of “unfriending” people who disagree with them. Social media is currently playing the 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 beneficial outcome.
The weakening of the political sphere and of civil society entities is dragging citizens toward spending hours over-expressing their anger on social media. Being trapped in the virtual reality of social media makes it difficult for citizens to engage in real life. The recent (quite infeasible) proposals made by an Egyptian MP concerning the blocking of social media websites and exacting fees on posted content might defuse the virtual struggle currently taking place in social media, but it won’t solve the problem. We need to channel the energy of the Egyptian people constructively – and we can only do so by prompting them to engage in real life. Social media should not be the central component of our lives.