What do the American Revolution, the French Resistance and the Civil Rights Movement have in common? They all somehow managed to change history without Facebook and Twitter. But if you listen to our technology-obsessed media this week as post-election unrest unfolds in Iran you'd get the distinct impression that the current opposition rebellion could not exist without these social-networking sites. Even the Obama administration is fueling the hype.
Overnight we're being sold on the critical global relevance of these repositories of heretofore useless information about what the Average Joe is doing, thinking, saying, listening to, watching, reading and eating every 5 minutes. Now they'd like us to believe that Twitter and Facebook are fueling a revolution and serving as the vessel for democracy in Iran. Power to the @People.
On Wednesday, the "I don't think we should meddle" Obama administration decided to meddle and asked Twitter to delay its planned site upgrade so that service would not be interrupted, allowing Tehran's cyber-revolutionaries to continue sending messages and images to their comrades around the world. Think about that. The U.S. government giving so much significance and legitimacy to such a nascent technology, with its utterly self-consumed community, as to imply that without it, somehow the revolution could run out of steam. Talk about self-importance. Needless to say, Twitter complied. It would be nice perhaps if the Blackberry-obsessed Obama actually injected himself into the Iranian election crisis in some truly meaningful capacity. That his boldest intervention was to keep Twitter operating uninterrupted is kind of mind-numbing actually. Where is his outrage? Where is the pressure from the United States, the great democracy and most most powerful nation in the world? Why are we sitting here on the sidelines seemingly afraid to take a harsh stand against such an obvious, colossal crime against humanity?
As for Twitter and Facebook, let's keep their relevance, or lack thereof, in their proper perspective. What would we have without these two sites through which to spread information about the massive protests? We'd have cell-phone cameras, Youtube, digital cameras and email. And what would we have before that? Phones, videotapes, 35mm photographs and underground newspapers. And what would we have before that? Well, we'd have the American Revolution, the French Resistance and the Civil Rights Movement, which last time I checked, profoundly changed the course of history without the ubiquitous Twitter and Facebook.