Social Media during a military coup

July 15, 2016

I’ve never been a very active user of social media in the past 10 years except for sharing the occasional funny puppy and soccer video with friends. As a result, every time I’ve read articles and blog posts about how social media was a catalyst in some sort of change, I was quite skeptical.

I guess you have to live it to see it.

Just a few days ago my parents were visiting Istanbul when a group of generals in the military attempted a coup on the government. Following the handbook of coups, their first order of business was to seize the government TV station followed by private media outlets such as newspapers, tv stations etc. and read declarations of total control over the country. This was followed by an attempt to block social media. At this point, it was almost impossible to get a good understanding of what was really happening through traditional media.

Trying to get more up-to-date information, I went through a dozen social apps/web sites and eventually figured out what was happening in the country. Events kept unfolding very quickly and seeing a constant stream of updates, getting news from friends and family that they were safe was a big relief. It turns out the whole thing was also planned using a social app. When all was said and done, I had cycled through 6 apps for hours. So here is a list of apps that were used:

  • What’s App — used by the military group to communicate (as later exposed by Turkish newspapers)
  • FaceTime — used by the President of Turkey to urge the public to get on the streets and stop the attempted military coup
  • Twitter — used by foreign news correspondents and Turkish public to share/speculate news
  • Periscope — used by the Turkish people to live broadcast the horrific 5–6 hour period from different parts of the country
  • Facebook — used by friends and family to let others now their whereabouts
  • Reddit — to get a perspective on what is happening without a specific media outlet bias

After getting hooked on these apps for hours, I have witnessed the power of social media and social apps at times of emergency & chaos. They literally help shape the world by enabling people to communicate freely, organize and take action. If for every couple thousand silly posts describing what people are eating and complain about 1st world problems I can see a life saved, I will gladly take all social media apps. I am a convert.

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