After the egyptian revolution: "We need to move from liking and sharing to action""

Movie director Karim El-shenawy is currently travelling to Sweden to participate in a workshop for youth from all over the world on the 21st of May in Karlskrona at the YC3 conference to inspire how to create change through social media!

Karim played an active role in spreading information during the historically momentous January revolution in Egypt earlier this year. A revolution that was historic in many aspects – with one significant attribute being the pre-dated revolution created by activists as a Facebook event – inciting the revolution to take place on January 25th.

Karim says that social media became the only way to communicate during the revolution.

"Before the regime switched off Internet, anonymous emails circulated on how to escape tear gas and what to wear to protect yourself from it. People got online just to get more information. During the eighteen days of revolution, Internet was down a total of six days. But the regime was too late on pulling the switch - everyone was already on the streets. Which was actually good, because during a revolution you need people on the streets  - not debating in front of the computer!"

Karim has been using Facebook and Youtube to spread his movies since 2007. His movies have been screened in London, Berlin, Palestine, Syria and Lebanon, and he was awarded gold at Al jazeera’s international documentary film festival. Karim sees an interesting development where entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs are starting to turn social media into business.

"I want to make change through social media. Our company has a very good reputation, we know how to find and develop new ways of spreading our messages. I believe that to make change you have to frame your message through entertainment! You have to motivate people to share their videos."

Before the revolution the political situation in Egypt was boiling. In the last election the regime got 99,5% of the votes in the parliament, and they wanted Mubarak’s son, Gamal Mybarak to take over the power after his father. It became more and more obvious what was happening and social media acted as a catalyst through the easy access of information. Many different Facebook groups and pages were raising this awareness and during the revolution people noticed that the message presented in social media as Twitter, Youtube and Facebook was very different from the traditional media, which had lost touch with reality completely.

"Until the 27th of January I was in London where we sent out a press release and coordinated a successful demonstration outside of the Egyptian embassy. But on the 28th I traveled to Egypt, I needed to be there!"

Karim shot a video on Tahir Square to show the diversity of the masses of people and of Egyptian society as a whole.

"The message of the video is that not all people on the square were Islamists or spies; they were Muslims, farmers, workers and Christians. The situation on the square changed every day, but throughout the entire revolution everyone had the same goal. You could see where the different groups were standing on the square, but everyone was helping each other, also with food and drinks. After the revolution it’s not the same picture - now everyone has their own agenda. But everyone also knows what it was like to be united."

Karim knows that there are lots of things left to do now.

"50 years of failed governance, a failed education system and lack of jobs and development are not small things. I’m really concerned about the coming five years, with presidential and parliament elections coming up. We need to be patient, build trust and spend time on our economy and development – everything is not about politics. I’m optimistic and very worried at the same time. One of the most pressing issues now before the two upcoming elections is how to build sustainable and credible information sources and make people aware of which information they can trust."

Karim wants to engage all kinds of people in making a difference, but also sees the danger in a digital divide where not all people have access to Internet or know which information to trust.

"During the revolution my mum created a Facebook account without knowing anything about social media. So, now I ask myself are we actually reaching more people or just creating a new elite that is disconnected from the rest of Egypt. We want to engage and activate people of all levels. But people need to move from liking and sharing to action. We need awareness videos that are not related to social media but to people working with social projects, social businesses and in developing the slums. Social media can never play solo – we have to engage people to work in the reality."

Evelina Lundqvist & Sandra Kinnaman Nordström