Tuesday, June 23, 2009

If it wasn't for TWITTER - I wouldn't have been there

Last week the Daily Show Global Edition with Jon Stewart ran a piece on CNN's obsession with Twitter, FaceBook, and MySpace. The segment opened with a montage of various CNN cast and crew constantly asking viewers to follow them on Twitter. Cut to Jon Stewart with a deadpan look on his face. "Do I have to get a restraining order against CNN?" he joked, "Why do I have to follow CNN on Twitter? If I was interested in following CNN - I would follow them on CNN."

I found this extremely funny because I also had failed to see what all the hoopla over Twitter was all about. I had promised myself that I was not going on Twitter. It all seemed like a big waste of time to me. I was already having a hard enough time trying to think of something to put in my "update status" section of FaceBook on a daily basis - what would I possibly do with Twitter? After all, Twitter is NOTHING BUT status updates. At least on FaceBook you can amuse yourself looking at other people's pictures.

Then came the outbreak of H1N1 in Maadi. The "rumor" on Egyptian TV was that an American employed at an Oil and Gas company in Maadi had H1N1. Since my husband works in the Oil and Gas sector and many of his cutomers are in Maadi, I was curious to find out more. I checked in with some of my favorite Egyptian bloggers this guy and this guy only to be led through various links that eventually took me to their Twitter accounts. Ok. What the Hell? I don't have anything to lose. So I set myself up a Twitter account and clicked FOLLOW.

Before long, and after searching through some of their followers/followees, I was following some other bloggers, as well as several employees of the Daily News Egypt. Within minutes I had my sources for up to the minute information on the H1N1 outbreak. I felt like a reporter picking up stories on the news agencies and wire services. It was kind of fun.

But I still knew very little about how Twitter worked. What was this RT I kept seeing in people's updates? And what was the deal with the @ messages? Or the # before certain words? I eventually figured out (on my own because there is no mention of it on the Twitter Help page) that the # symbol used before certain words is a kind of tagging system. So I decided to do a search of #egypt and see what came up.

An entire page of tweets about Egypt suddenly appeared. Things like: "I'm so excited leaving for Egypt in three days", and "packing for Egypt". Well you get the idea. They were all written by people that had said something about Egypt. But the very first one to appear at the top of the page really caught my attention. "arrived Cairo, Egypt. Thru Passport control."

I was so intrigued by that one I clicked on the profile. It was an American photojournalist. That was all I needed to see and I clicked FOLLOW immediately. Since I, myself, am an aspiring (more like wanna-be) photojournalist, my curiosity was peaked by this individual. At the very least, I thought, it would mean more great photos to look at. For the next few days I "followed" this guys every tweeted move - from taxi rides through Cairo, to dinners by the Nile, to his shopping trips, business meetings, and a few scary moments watching the USA vs Egypt football match in a cafe.

At this point you may be thinking the same thing I am. It seems strange to know each and every move about a total stranger. It is. It would kind of creep me out knowing that complete and total strangers know where I am and what I'm doing at any given moment. We will leave that topic now to the Sociologists to write dissertations on, as I'm sure they are already working on some as we speak. But hey - if someone wants to tell me what they are doing throughout the day - who am I not to be interested?

But the whole thing took a different turn last night. Sitting at home, just minding my own business, I refreshed my Twitter home page to find this Tweet from the American photojournalist: "So, does anyone out there have a serious question they want me to ask the Muslim Brotherhood? @ Me within 20 Minutes. #egypt".

Was this guy serious? He was. He was about to enter a meeting with Mohamed Habib at the Muslim Brotherhood office in Cairo. Now I don't consider myself to be a political person - I'm more into the Human Interest/Lifestyle type of stuff, but this topic had me really interested. I also don't admit to knowing a hell of a lot about the Muslim Brotherhood except to say that I'm relatively sure not many Egyptians would be happy if they came into any significant amount of power in Egypt. Personally, I don't think I would be either. But what else could I possibly want as an American other than a Democratic secular government and the full separation of Church and State?

So I @ messaged this guy and said: "Does the MB see Egypt becoming like Iran in the next 10 years, if so, will they be prepared for a revolution here?"

His response came rapidly: "Habib doesn't speak of revolution. Reform. An Islamic Democracy. Not fully realized in current constitution. #egypt" and "Not Iranian model. No infallible Imams. People have the right to overthrow gov. #egypt". And then there was this: "He sighted religious minorities would have equal place within #egypt. Full citizens." This came in response to another Twitter user's question about a connection between the MB and Al Qaeda: "No connections. But, any occupiers should be resisted. Maintain culture. Fight dictatorships peacefully from within". In addition he tweeted a picture from the meeting as it was going on.

It was an interesting evening. All in all, I'm glad I caved into the pressure to join TWITTER. How else could I have attended a meeting with the Muslim Brotherhood but vicariously through one of my followees!

To check out more about their meeting and to see some of the photos visit the group's blog here.

To watch the Daily Show with Jon Stewart:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
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Political HumorJason Jones in Iran

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