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Is beneath you a horse or a donkey?

Social media websites have succeeded at breaking things and not at making them

Turki Aldakhil

Published: Updated:

The mocker on this occasion is one of the godfathers and a leading figure at social networking websites. Egyptian activist Wael Ghonim – whose anonymous Facebook page “We Are All Khaled Said” helped launch the Egyptian revolution in 2011 – conceded in a TED talk in December that social media websites have succeeded at breaking things and not at making them.

“I once said: ‘If you want to liberate a society, all you need is the Internet.’ I was wrong”, Ghonim said.

I wished to say to Friedman: Your statements confirm Badi al-Zaman al-Hamadani’s saying: “You will see, when the dust clears, if beneath you is a horse or a donkey!”

Turki Al-Dakhil

“Online discussions quickly descend into angry mobs. It’s as if we forget that the people behind screens are actually real people and not just avatars. It has become really hard to change our opinions. Because of the speed and brevity of social media we are forced to jump to conclusions and write sharp opinions in 140 characters about complex world affairs”, he added.

Friedman’s take

Ghonim’s statements attracted columnist Thomas Friedman’s attention. Earlier this month, Friedman, who was enthusiastic about Arab revolutions, wrote: “Over the last few years we’ve been treated to a number of “Facebook revolutions,” from the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street to the squares of Istanbul, Kiev and Hong Kong, all fueled by social media. But once the smoke cleared, most of these revolutions failed to build any sustainable new political order, in part because as so many voices got amplified, consensus-building became impossible.”

I wished to say to Friedman: Your statements confirm Badi al-Zaman al-Hamadani’s saying: “You will see, when the dust clears, if beneath you is a horse or a donkey!”

This article first appeared in Okaz newspaper on Feb. 22, 2016.
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Turki Al-Dakhil is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. He began his career as a print journalist, covering politics and culture for the Saudi newspapers Okaz, Al-Riyadh and Al-Watan. He then moved to pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat and pan-Arab news magazine Al-Majalla. Turki later became a radio correspondent for the French-owned pan-Arab Radio Monte Carlo and MBC FM. He proceeded to Elaph, an online news magazine and Alarabiya.net, the news channel’s online platform. Over a ten-year period, Dakhil’s weekly Al Arabiya talk show “Edaat” (Spotlights) provided an opportunity for proponents of Arab and Islamic social reform to make their case to a mass audience. Turki also owns Al Mesbar Studies and Research Centre and Madarek Publishing House in Dubai. He has received several awards and honors, including the America Abroad Media annual award for his role in supporting civil society, human rights and advancing women’s roles in Gulf societies. He tweets @TurkiAldakhil.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.