I find that one of the most difficult tasks is inspiring myself. I would love it if inspiration could show up at my door every day. However, that is not the case. Inspiration calls on me whenever it suits her schedule, not the other way around. Sometimes she brings canvas and paints, other times she brings pen and paper.
But, during this particular visit, inspiration handed me a camera.
On Wednesday June 16th, my day started as it normally does. I woke up at 8 AM, worked out at 9 AM, had breakfast at 10 AM, then went on a walk at 11 AM. While getting ready to go out, a news notification popped up on my phone.
It is truly fascinating how impactful two sentences could be. In response to incendiary balloons launched by Hamas, Israel launched another airstrike on Gaza after a month-long ceasefire.
I tucked that information away in my brain, wore my airpods, and proceeded to walk out the door. During my walk, my brain processed the news I read. The words bounced around in my head, kicking my gears in motion. Inspiration has arrived, and she demanded attention.
I ran back home, straight to my desk. On a sheet of paper, I wrote down a timeline of relevant events prior to the Isreaeli airstrike, followed by my analysis.
It is increasingly apparent that Israel is failing to resolve the conflict with Palestinians. Using brutal force to squash Palestinian resistance does not work. It has not worked since 1948. Israel is failing to tackle the root of its problem with Palestinian Arabs. Instead, Israel consistently uses surface-level band-aid solutions. As a result, episodes of violent conflict re-emerge over time.
Protests to #FreePalestine are happening all around the world. Source: Open source.
I sat my pen down, took a shower, got dressed, propped up my phone on my windowsill with the camera facing me, my notes on the table in front of me, then hit record. To wrap up the project, I published the video on my social media. I was finally able to relax, knowing that I contributed to a cause I believe in. I was inspired to share a video of my thoughts, in return my video could potentially inspire viewers to support my cause.
Social media provides access to a global audience at no cost, thus, it enables change worldwide. Tools of information sharing facilitated change over time. Starting with word of mouth as the main vehicle of spreading news, followed by printed flyers and photographs, then arriving at the internet and social media today.
Social movements in the Soviet Eastern Bloc relied on Samizdat, which was a Russian underground press that combated state propaganda and media censorship. I remember a remarkable story that my mentor shared with me from her time working at international organizations. Part of her job was assisting social movements around the world to promote democratic practices.
She told me how her organization helped Solidarność (Solidarity) in Poland by smuggling parts of a Gestetner machine-a German xerox machine-across the border. Copier machines were as important as guns or gold, for strength comes from numbers, and numbers are gained through spreading the word across the country. Solidarity grew loud and powerful, as a result, the Polish government gave in to Solidarity’s demands for labor rights.
Russian samizdat and photo negatives of unofficial literature. Source: Wikipedia.
Otpor in Serbia succeeded in bringing down Milosovic using old and new methods of mobilization. The social movement created a website before renting an office space. The U.S. and European countries donated printers and computers in support of Otpor. The movement also relied on word of mouth, gathering under the pretence of youth rock concerts.
Social media became a new tool for social movements to utilize. In the case of Israel-Palestine, social media helped combat Israeli state propaganda and gain international support. Images and videos shared locally of realities on the ground in Palestine traveled far and wide though social media hashtags. Israeli state propaganda was propped up through media censorship.
The narrative over the past 73 years portrayed Palestinians as violent and alien. Now, thanks to social media, the narrative is shifting to reveal Palestinians as victims of colonial occupation. To learn more about the evolving conflict between Israel and Palestine, I highly recommend reading Blind Spot by Khaled Elgindy.
Crossing the border from Israel to Egypt, we can find another great example of social media as a tool for fighting oppression. During the Egyptian Revolution of 2011, Egyptians across the country coordinated on Facebook. The platform connected millions. News of government corruption, police brutality, and unwarranted arrests spread like wildfire on social media sites, fueling the revolution in its wake. Social media amplified the power of the masses.
A protester holding a placard in Tahrir Square referring to Facebook and Twitter, acknowledging the
role played by social media during the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
There are many instances of positive change through social media. The video of George Floyd’s death going viral inspired a national social justice movement in the United States. Some stories slip through the cracks of traditional television and print news, and some are deliberately censored. Social media hosts all.
In other words, social media can be used for government accountability. The officer responsible for Floyd’s death was tried and convicted. While Floyd’s viral video did not solve the problem of racism, it did kick start the process for positive change.
Lastly, like any other tool, social media has its own drawbacks. As long as one can afford purchasing a smartphone and can afford paying for electricity to charge the device, social media makes it easy and affordable to leave an impactful global footprint. While there is no monetary cost to publishing content online, there is a cost to access.
Social media is a tool for change, but it is not the only one. At this point in my life, I may not have the financial resources, nor the political capital to support the Palestinian conflict in a meaningful way, but I do have passion, intellect, and a smartphone, and so I will utilize it.
Inspiration is not easy to find. She drops by unannounced, and stays only for a short while. Her best visits are ones that end with impactful action. In my previous article I wrote about impactful entrepreneurs in the food industry, how a falafel sandwich and a box of chocolates could inspire sustainable solutions.
A tweet, or an instagram post may not be the solution, but it could inspire a sustainable solution. Social media is the future for change and inspiration.