Way too much has been said and written about the social media use of the January 25 generation.
Hysterical (local and international) news outlets and commentators quickly concluded that the explosion of online interaction and the call for political action on social media platforms were all products of an active and enraged youth.
But the “Twitter revolution” side of January 25 had little to do with these trends and, in retrospect, seemed to consist of millions of bored people in their 20s and 30s with a WiFi connection who just couldn’t stand seeing the same faces over and over again — the face of Hosni Mubarak, the faces of authority, or even the faces of their own family and friends.
So they turned to fresher faces, who coincidentally shared the same boredom and hatred of old faces.
People who didn’t show their faces
Some “artists” were a bit on the shy side. YouTubers like “Ezzo,” “EgySpoof” or “Bahgaga channel” shared their political views while hiding behind Adobe Premiere or Final Cut Studio, cutting and pasting ridiculous television segments and iconic moments from political speeches with snippets from popular movies and songs. Some people remember videos like “The secret of the hysterical penis” more than they remember the actual political events they were commenting on (a fight in parliament between Brotherhood members and the supply minister, in this case).
This post-revolution trend also brought a number of talents to light, and widened the horizons for people with a knack for video editing and storytelling, like Omar Adel. It was very fresh to see the manipulation of traditional soap opera narratives in his funny YouTube videos that experimented with TV culture and Egyptian drama-making traditions.
Some of these artists were later picked up for jobs in big TV productions or advertising, while others just kept on doing their thing. There is definitely less hype around all their work, partly because outlets have developed in a way that’s encouraged a lot more ordinary users to do their own stuff (Vine, Dubsmash, and so on).
People who actually showed their faces
Incited by the traditional media roles, many people opted to film themselves while they talked about stuff.
Trivial day-to-day issues were beautifully mocked in Tameem Youness’s “Raseeni”, while Sarrah Abdel Rahman’s “Walla Eih?” filled us in on her biting opinions, and — the most commercially successful and popularly influential of the bunch — Bassem Youssef introduced the concept of political satire to the nation with “Al-Bernameg”. People related to these personas, hailed them as carriers of their voices and found comfort in their sardonic wisdom in dark and despondent times.
The void of the Internet was also the ideal space for people who had been deprived of expression for eons, including vloggers like “Joe tube” and “Shab Ashraf,” who reflected the more Islamist side of things. Warning: Humor is a relative thing.
After June 30, 2013, these two particular artists’ work seemed to gain obvious financial support. The crackdown on Islamist channels made them a useful way for the Islamist discourse to continue expressing itself.
People in your faces
The crazy business of spitting out stars overnight encouraged some lesser-known individuals to step up and clamor for their 15 minutes of Facebook fame. Script writers, both prominent and obscure, explored their Facebook audience’s subconscious for newer ideas and weirder short scripts, occasionally gaining cult status that overshadowed their more established counterparts.
Sherif Naguib, Ahmad Saad and Amr Sukkar’s writing became an integral part of mainstream culture and the way it continues to shape itself. All of them have written scripts for sitcoms or movies, and they are part of a growing business of fan-based production.
New outlets and social media platforms allowed people to experiment with different tactics of showing off and creating hype, helping celebrities whose stardom had began to plummet to pump new blood into their image. Belly dancers Fifi Abdou and Ghada Abdel Razek’s use of Instagram is an obvious example.
Other figures used this space to market ideas or social experiments — Usama Dorra’s progressive writing on religion or Khorm’s erotic Instagram pictures could have never been the same if January 25 had never happened.
The future is…
Since January 25, social media voices and personas have gotten bigger and gained more followership. Of course, many names that were very important in the early days of revolutionary online activism aren’t influential at the moment, but in general, such commentators are now at the heart of the very loud debates and arguments that make up the country’s political life.
The revolution attracted many people toward the internet. Independence and user-generated production became cool, and mainstream entertainment had to work harder to compete, but also exploited the new social media culture. The producers of all this creation gained fame, got jobs and are now moving ahead. The future is bright because of the revolution.