Tweets from Tahrir

Issue section: 
Issue: 
(358)

Nadia Idle and Alex Nunns (eds)

This is a fascinating account of the Egyptian Revolution told through 140-character "tweets" posted on the social media website Twitter. When I started reading the book I was sceptical it would be an over-hyped testimony to how crucial the internet was to bringing down Mubarak. Instead the book is a vivid account of the rollercoaster ride activists went through observing and participating in the revolution.

Although the book features only the relatively small number of Egytians who Tweet in English, the richness of the narrative took me by surprise. Debates between left and right are expressed in exchanges and retweets. You get a real sense of the highs and lows, and even the personalities. You are constantly reminded that the scale of the revolution extends far beyond the virtual world - indeed, tweets often come from activists in Tahrir Square, whether facing down police thugs or observing a wedding!

I disagree with some of the editorial elements of the book. The extent of online coordination between the social movements is exaggerated, as is the role of the Google executive Wael Ghonim's emotional TV interview in galvanising public opinion. But these positions are challenged by the tweets themselves. You never feel that the tweets are selected to bolster an editorial opinion.

As I write, the revolutionary process in Egypt continues. This little book provides an insight into how it began.