In Tahrir Square, Egypt, there are a few hundred revolutionaries still encamped. The military has politely asked them to leave but they refuse, considering themselves something akin to watchdogs charged with keeping the newly instated military junta honest.
You wouldn't think several hundred people would prove much of a threat, especially compared to the mass of humanity that flooded the Square mere days ago to call for the immediate resignation of former President Hosni Mubarak. Times, however, have changed.
The protestors who remain in the Square are certain of the support of thousands; all that needs be done, if necessary, is to make a few phone calls, send some texts, tweet some tweets and update a couple Facebook pages, and people will come. The revolution is taking place by proxy.
The importance of social media here cannot be overstated; I've said it before and will probably say it again: We're living in a new world.
The use of social media helped the foment as well. Google executive Wael Ghonim used a Facebook page under the aliases "Admin 1" and "El Shaheed" to organize the protest. He sent out a Facebook event invitation to every fan of the page he manages. 50,000 Egyptians responded that they would be in attendance.
Similar stories have come out of Tunisia, Yemen, Jordan, Algeria, Bahrain and Iran as protests and revolutions-in-infancy sweep across the Arab world. The instantaneous nature of Internet and cell phone communication has made it possible for protests to crop up almost at a moment's notice, making it difficult for governments to get wind of the upcoming protests and quash them before they can begin.
What does this mean for America? Well, we have more leverage than the government would like to admit. President Barack Obama has publicly stated that he will hit the Internet-kill switch if there should ever be a national emergency requiring such an action. That sounds rather frightening at first; the government can literally shut off a resource so prevalent that many Americans can't imagine living without it.
From another angle, though, the reality is deeply empowering, as it means the government is afraid of the potential of millions of people plugged in and in close, instant contact with each other. Social media has put enormous power into the hands of anyone with a computer or a cell phone and created a network with a scope that has never existed before in the history of the human species.
So let's use this vast power to our advantage. Everyone these days seems happy to complain about the government. It doesn't matter if you're a Democrat or a Republican, conservative or liberal; you probably dislike the government. According to recent polls, Congress has lower approval ratings within the U.S. than the Taliban does in Afghanistan. It's entirely possible that the American people just don't know what we want. When we figure it out, let's use the vast social media network to tell our government. It certainly can't hurt.
Let me know. I'll be on Twitter.