Facebook activism, and where it fails

Published: July 2, 2011

A mere expression of hatred and loathing with a gazillion ‘likes’ isn’t going to do anything to change the situation. PHOTO: REUTERS

Today I was invited to a Facebook event called “18 Crore People demanding Zardari’s Resign – We Hate You. Leave Pakistan”. Thinking it was just another one of those inexhaustible Facebook invitations everyone keeps getting, I ignored it until I saw how many people were attending: The number was 55,321. And from the looks of it, the figure is growing.

Now I’m a strong proponent of freedom of political expression, but I feel that ensuing debates should actually be constructive. A mere expression of hatred and loathing for a leader with a gazillion ‘likes’ isn’t going to do anything to change the situation. What is more bothersome is that some of the literate, Facebook-clicking population of the country seems to think that indulging in a long tirade of expletives will be cathartic.

If you think that targeting all your fury and disgust towards one person on a Facebook wall is going to make things better, then type away.

But, if you think that you can channel all this negative energy into something positive, then I strongly advise you take that road.

As the intelligent youth of a country with a lot of potential, it is our responsibility to take the reins.

Ask yourself if you’re fulfilling your individual responsibilities honestly.

Remind yourself that taking that “tiny” peek for a test and plagiarising that essay also makes you part of the system of dishonesty you’re criticising arguably on a micro level.

Unfortunately today, our country is facing grave problems from a number of directions. But instead of looking for solutions and working collectively towards a common good, we have identified politicians as the face of all evil.

PEW ratings show that our President’s approval ratings have plummeted to 11 per cent. But this face keeps changing. One day we chant slogans of “go Musharraf go,” another day we blame Imran Khan for his spineless politics – the list is endless.

We as a nation have devised a system where we blame the man, but not what he represents. We think that changing the man will bring us change. But Pakistan is not a monarchy. The “leader” represents a system of corruption and fraud, and we are bearing the brunt of an entire structure that seems to face a chronic case.

We are all guilty.

Unless we change ourselves and work towards positive change, we will continue to be guilty of the same crime we criticise. We cannot absolve ourselves of all guilt, adopt a holier-than-thou attitude and continue to hold everyone but ourselves liable.

It is time for national responsibility – and not just on Facebook.

Maha Kamal

Maha Kamal

A junior at Boston University majoring in International Relations and Journalism. She blogs at mahakamal.wordpress.com. You can follow her on twitter @emeskay

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Salim

    ” We think that changing the man will bring us change. But Pakistan is not a monarchy. The “leader” represents a system of corruption and fraud, and we are bearing the brunt of an entire structure that seems to face a chronic case.”
    Very astutely verbalized. A lot of other people have been trying to say the same thing. But this was the best expressed version. Great.Recommend

  • Jawad Babar

    “A leader with a gazillion likes”. Now that’s extremely funny :)Recommend

  • http://www.aimanamjad.wordpress.com Aiman Amjad

    Congratulations on your first article on the tribune maha. =) I completely agree with you. The youth needs to stand out as an impenetrable edifice of honesty, patriotism and dedication. Collectively the model can be divested off the corruption and nonchalance that our society faces. We know that what comes from the heart, reaches the heart. It’s all about being moralistically sound and professionally loyal to the state that beguiles almost all trouble these days….
    Pakistan Zindabad. Recommend

  • amna

    what’s the difference between a fb status and an ET blog post?

    the word count.

    that’s it. Recommend

  • Danish

    Well this shows that our people or i can say are now stepping up against the issues so no wonder one day we will make this happen.facebook can be use as a paltform to gather people like we saw in egypt where FB’s page unite the people and let mubarak to throw out from the more than 30 year dictatorship.Recommend

  • Abu Bakr Agha

    I think i’m fulfilling my duty as a citizen of this country and i will not be made to feel guilty by RVPSing to that facebook event. If anything maybe when that particular person sees the amount of people that want him gone, he might have some regrets about the way he lived his life. Even if he does not, i don’t care, it doesn’t matter. I highly doubt many of the people who are ‘attending’ that event actually truly believe that its going to change anything.. but as far as activism through social media is concerned, it caught Egypt’s attention and it definitely gives you a know how of popular public opinion. Don’t hate.Recommend

  • Uncle J

    Wonderful article. keep it up.Recommend

  • http://bakedsunshine.wordpress.com/ Shumaila

    *yawn * Nothing new expressed. The rants against fb activism have been done to death. Even Malcolm Gladwell has written on it.

    Also, it’s ‘peek’ in the 7th paragraph, not ‘peak’. Recommend

  • Q

    Absolutely agree with you Maha.. Unfortunately, you will not get a lot of recognition in the short run because people are busy fb’ing.. Recommend

  • http://mahakamal.wordpress.com Maha Kamal

    @Abu Bakr Agha:

    People using Facebook as a platform is definitely a good thing.. My only objection is when Facebook activism becomes vitriolic… One of the reasons why social media was a great tool in the Arab Spring was because people were sharing anecdotes, pictures and videos of political repression. People could “see” the brutality of the regime, and then rose up to it. Recommend

  • Sana Shahzad

    Congratulations maha :)
    great article!!
    most of the youth does believe that its not the person to be blamed but the system. However, other than the protests on roads i don’t see any constructive steps taken to solve this problem. however, only 11% of Pakistan population can read and understand English and one-third of them may not even read this. I particularly feel its the rural areas which need to be educated this time. They are so caught in poverty that every new leader who promises to pay off their loan, gets a vote.Recommend

  • Asif Nawaz


  • Saad

    it should be “then” in the 4th paragraph, not “than”. that is all.Recommend

  • http://xehra.wordpress.com Zehra

    Well, that was short and to the point. I won’t cheat from now on, I promise =PRecommend

  • Usman Syed

    The biggest example of failure of online media (e.g facebook) in Pakistani political arena is PTI & Imran Khan. He is undoubtedly the most popular ‘online’ leader of Pakistan, however his electoral success is no-where to be seen. Even many of his agitations (juloos, jalsas, dharnas etc) did not draw much audience despite the fact that these events were widely publicized & supported online.Recommend

  • http://digitaljesus.wordpress.com Anthony Permal

    @Shumaila: Funny you should call out this ambitious young woman on her grammar and spelling errors, considering you break two rules in your own judgmental sentence. Recommend

  • http://bakedsunshine.wordpress.com/ Shumaila

    @ Anthony – oh don’t be such a wet rag, I was only pointing it out to the editors before someone else did. Recommend

  • http://www.aimanamjad.wordpress.com Aiman Amjad

    @Sana Shahzad:
    Agreed Sana. 11% but some time in the past, it was even less. Things are progressing. They will improve. If we can go to the town streets, we can even make it to the village paths. I support youth as there is no other solution. We 11% educated can enter multitude of professions which will benefit thousands in one way or another. Recommend

  • http://www.aimanamjad.wordpress.com Aiman Amjad


    “Also, it’s ‘peek’ in the 7th paragraph, not ‘peak’.”

    The article says: “Remind yourself that taking that “tiny” peek for a test and plagiarising that essay also makes you part of the system of dishonesty you’re criticising arguably on a micro level.”

    Madam, can you kindly point out exactly WHERE has the word “peak” been used in the above 7th paragraph?Recommend

  • Mohammad Mohsin

    Yes, the article totally makes sense. Nicely written and expressed. Recommend

  • Ali

    i always feel shame when i see educated people behave like fools. who is not corupt in Pakistan? NWaz Sharif, Shahbaz sharif, ALtaf Hussain, Shujat Hussain, Musharf, many juedges and Generals and there is long list. But why such as poll or criticism just for one, think some bodyis making you fool just for some personal reasons.Recommend

  • http://facebook.com/habibees Surkhab

    Nice articleRecommend

  • Shumaila

    @ Aiman – it has been corrected by the editors, Madam :) Recommend

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/asad-durrani/ Asad

    I would like to ask
    what is meant by “literate, Facebook-clicking population of the country” here?Recommend

  • http://truthexposed123.blogspot.com/ Crazy

    thanks…….It will help people a lot in changing their attitude.Recommend

  • http://mahakamal.wordpress.com Maha K

    Sorry the phrase was a bit ambiguous; I used the word “literate” to emphasize that the Pakistanis who are on facebook are one of the 57% (circa) literate population of this countryRecommend

  • Omair Anwar