It wasn’t so long ago that we thought the world was flat. Globalization had leveled the playing field, technology spelled the death of distance, and people were fleeing the cities for the comfort of the suburbs. We’d reached the end of history. And social media could never, ever be a tool of social activism.
Taken collectively, these popular nostrums shaped a vision of an unreal world inhabited by billions of solipsists – where, as Blair Kamin of The Chicago Tribune recently described it, people “lived in lonely isolation, lured away from the public square by the seduction of Internet chatrooms.” But the lesson of Egypt—and of Tunisia, Bahrain, Libya, Iran, and everywhere else that has been swept up in the wave of revolutionary activism—is quite the opposite. “The Web doesn’t supplant the public square,” Kamin declares, “It pushes people to it.”