Hate to Say I Told You So

The biggest hit by The Hives is Hate to Say I Told You So. Great song, I’ve seen them perform it live several times. The chorus comes to mind when I follow the debate on social media and democracy.

The Economist front page the other week was the F from the Facebook-logo as a smoking gun and the headline “Social media’s threat to democracy”. You may have seen the animated version on Facebook (yes, Facebook). If The Economist says something, that message is central to the direction the debate on a current topic is going.

This message is quite different from how social media and democracy was discussed yesterday. Remember the “social media revolution”? How Twitter and Facebook brought about the Arab Spring in 2011? How many seminars and op-eds have talked about how social media bring democracy to authoritarian states? Now, it appears social media rather brings authoritarianism to democratic states.

Hate to say I told you so, but I never bought the idea of a social media revolution. In 2012, I published a chapter in anthology by Egyptian democracy ­activist Mariam Kirollos: The Revolution Beyond 140 Characters. She said many of the people who risked their lives on Tahrir Square for bread, freedom and social justice were illiterate, most had no internet connection and had never heard of Facebook. The social media revolution existed only as hype in Western media. It only took six-seven years for the penny to drop.

Don’t take it from me, take it from The Hives.