The Theory of the Globe Scrambled by Social
A New Sphere of Influence 2.0
Abstract. The Cold War seems to continue in a
different form, on Social Networks. Concerning the use of the Social
Networks, the Globe seems to be scrambled; if the Western Countries
have the same social media, such as Twitter or Facebook, all the
Eastern Governments prefer to promote Social Networks closer to their
own culture, avoiding any American influences. It is difficult to
establish the consequences of these actions, but the modus operandi
seems to be that of the Cold War; of course, in other areas.
Drauglem, Tudou, V Kontake&co: strange words to most Western ears.
It is important to take into account that the perception of Social
Networks is different between Western and Eastern countries. If today’s
platforms Facebook, Google and Instagram are seamlessly connected to
Western people’s daily lives, you cannot assume the same for other
countries’ habits. According to Barsky and Purdon2,
the links between virtual users exist since the birth of the Web.
Therefore, it is impossible to deny that, since 20033,
the increasing existence of Social Networks has had a major influence
on the daily life of most of the global population.
Through Twitter it is possible to send speedy, short messages of
maximum 140 characters, and to also share links and pictures. Facebook
is more personal; it is possible to describe yourself in great detail,
writing sensitive data, such as jobs and studies or a list of
relatives, and it is used to create more detailed relationships. Sina
Weibo is the Chinese Social Network and is a clever fusion between
Twitter and Facebook, symbolising the Chinese talent in making new
business by mixing strong points of various products; the usability of
mobile in publishing short 'tweets' is as efficient as Twitter; it is
also possible to use hashtags, as well as to build your own profile
like in Facebook.
Kwame Nkrumah thought applied on 2.0
Kwame Nkrumah said in the last century – unaware of the onset
of Social Media – people are living 'neo-colonization'4
effects also in other ways that he could not imagine. The truth is that
Western countries use American Social Media and absorb their ideologies
and customs. From Estonia, Colombia, Madagascar or New Zeeland, all
these people follow the 'selfie' of the Academy Awards’ night actors,
Obama’s tweets on Crimea situation or Lindsay Lohan’s 'prison break';
it looks as natural as an integral part of everyday life. A European
Union citizen feels more connected to South Korea or Japan, countries
in the 'East' that use the Social Medias of the 'West', compared to the
neighbour Belarus where Russian Social Networks are more popular.
Examples of different uses of the
Western people can easily follow the Versace show online in
Fashion Week Tokyo, or they can emulate Seoul’s flash mob of PSY’s
'Gangnam style'. This example shows that the West is fully linked by
Social Media. All the people are linked, crossing geographical and
generational barriers: all the people are linked by ideologies as
during the time of the Cold War. Pope Francis is the first Pope in
history to use a Social Network; he chose Twitter instead of Facebook.
According to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Twitter
is better suited to represent an 'Institution' as opposed to Facebook,
which is too personal. This is an example of crossing geographical
barriers; Pope Francis could send religious messages through Twitter,
such as his recent effort to make new peace agreements to solve the
situation in Syria.5
Another example of crossing geographical barriers, concerns the case of
the Harold J. Greene murder. The US General was shot in Kabul by what
seemed to be an Afghan soldier. Suddenly, the Afghan Defence Ministry
Spokesman, Mohammad Zahir Azimi, communicated on Twitter that the
killer was not an Afghan soldier, but a terrorist wearing an Afghan
army uniform. The analysis of this case is interesting, because it
shows how the Afghan Spokesman preferred to communicate his own message
directly to the US and the entire world, without going through
journalists, Middle Eastern Social Networks or newspapers. His message
to the US was to emphasize that the Afghan Government was not
responsible for the terrorist attack; the best way to communicate the
message was through Twitter.6 This was the best medium
to communicate the Afghan position to the US because Twitter is an
American Social Media, shared by most Western-allied countries; this is
not simply crossing geographical barriers, but also sending out a
message in a form that Western people and Governments could absorb
comfortably thanks to their own familiarity with the use of Twitter.
Concerning the generational barriers, parents are often 'friends' of
their children on Facebook; they follow the same discussions, they
share the same links. Therefore, they could develop personal
discussions with them not just concerning online games or fun topics,
but also touching sensitive issues like “drugs, sexually transmitted
politics. This type of information sharing is much more intense than
before the development of Social Networks.
Breaking down generational and geographical barriers thanks to the
discussions around various issues as religions, politics and sex, helps
people to be more linked culturally in sharing information and points
Furthermore, if most Europeans, for example, are part of the 'Western
block' of social communities, such as Twitter or Skype users, the rest
of the world has different customs, which do not depend on geographical
criteria but have an'ideological basis'. According to Alexa.com, an
important part of the 'Muslim world', for example, uses Cloob.
Alexa.com’s country ranking “is calculated using a combination of
average daily visitors to this site and page views on this site from
users from that country over the past month”8.
Cloob is the Iranian Social Medium and it is guided by the
Parliamentary diktats: to survive and to be approved it has to conform
to the political regime and the Muslim law. Or it will be censured by
the politics, which happened on 7th March 2008. Obviously,
the 'Russian world' has its own social medium; Zuckerberg’s staff knows
it well because this year they lost the primacy in Kirghizistan, who
opted for Odnklassniski 9(who has also
Uzbekistan’s primacy). It is possible to affirm that probably
Zuckerberg’s decisions are also characterized by those kinds of
dynamics: in 2014 he 'conquered' Syria, who before used Maktoob, an
Arab-Internet platform based in Amman. The interest of the West in
global communication is also shown through the fact that Yahoo!
recognized the emerging power of Maktoob and, for this reason, they
bought it, ensuring a good market even in Middle East. Therefore, it is
possible to affirm that also the expansion of Facebook in Syria has
produced important outcomes.10
US’ social networks in Afghanistan
The most important social network used in Afghanistan came
from the United States. If the Social Network desired for Cuba from the
US Agency for International Development never really made it, in
Afghanistan you can definitely speak of an American accomplishment. In
Afghanistan, Paywast has 1.6 million users.
“The projects were encouraged by Hillary Rodham Clinton
when she was Secretary of State. Mrs. Clinton saw social
media as an important tool for diplomacy after observing
how Facebook and YouTube were used to organize protests
in Egypt and Tunisia during popular uprisings in 2010
[…] The United States spends millions of dollars a year on
social media programs as part of efforts to promote
democracy and better governance.“11
The choice to finance foreign projects such as the development of
Social Networks is reminiscent of the methods used, for example, with
the Marshal Plan at the end of World War II, to bring Western European
countries under the US’s sphere of influence.12
The most followed pages on Facebook
Thanks to SocialBakers.com, it is possible to define which are
the most followed pages on Facebook in the Afghan market. The
SocialBakers.com analysis is based on counting how many 'local likes'
each page gets. The schedules are divided into sections: Pages, Brands,
Media, Entertainment, Sport, Celebrities, Society, Community, Places13.
It is important to state the importance, in the top ten of each
section, of the fact that the first positions are occupied by
characters or companies of Afghan and Arabian culture. The presence of
Western preferences are relegated to the lower positions in the
schedules; therefore, the impact of Globalization is quite strong. For
example, in the Brand section, the first position belongs to MTN
Afghanistan (with 162,552 local fans), a South African mobile
telecommunications company, and the last position belongs to Sony.
Concerning the Media section, the first position belongs to TOLOnews;
TOLOnews is the news channel of the Afghan MOBU Group. TOLOnews is
followed by BBC Persian. BBC Persian is a perfect example of the fusion
in Globalization of the British Broadcasting Corporation and Middle
Eastern trends and interests. Regular Aghan citizens are predominantly
present in the people section, as opposed to celebrities or other
public figures. The same happens with celebrities; the undeniable
interest for the users of Facebook in Afghanistan for national and
Arabian celebrities is interesting. Western 'faces' are absent;
probably, Priyanka Chopra, the Indian ex Miss World, is one of the few
symbols active also in Hollywood; she takes up the 14th
position on the Celebrities list. This outcome reflects Afghan trends:
if Facebook is the number one Afghan social network, the users’
interests are still rooted on Afghan and Arab culture. Keeping an eye
on the same schedules in countries such as France or the Philippines,
it is possible to state that the biggest impact of Globalization can be
seen through social media; regarding celebrities, in France the 2nd
and 3rd positions are occupied by the singers Rihanna and
Shakira, and in the Philippines popular brands are multinationals such
as Samsung Mobile, Nescafe and KitKat. Facebook in Afghanistan is an
interesting Western product adapted to Middle Eastern contents.
Conclusion and reflections
Therefore, if someone were to think that Social Media’s
developments are probably linked to languages, the Italian example of
Tiscali proves why this is not the case. Tiscali was taken over by
foreign companies and lost competitiveness also in Italy.14
Furthermore, Europe, a melting pot of languages, is entirely 'tuned'
into Facebook. On the other hand, if Western people imagine China's
people with different customs than they have, they are on the wrong
track; they show videos on Tudou as the Western people on YouTube, they
use BaiduBaike if they want to use an encyclopedia (the Chinese version
of Wikipedia) and they personalize profiles on QZone that has
functions really similar to facebook15. Probably today the
'Great Wall of China' has bricks 2.0 to control their own society
better; the same goes for Russia and Iran, who want to protect their
own citizen ideologies from American influences.
Obviously, the reasons concern even the decision of autocratic
governments to control the public opinion internally through censuring
Social Networks. From Kabul, the young journalist Mustafa Kazemi uses
Twitter, posting external links to articles, tackling issues such as
difficulties in spreading information in countries where a lot of the
information systems are monitored or repressed by Governments. 16
Probably it is fair to say that the Cold War is not over, but instead
it is now fought in the field of Information-Technologies. Are
'Western' and 'Eastern' people pawns in the great chess-board 2.0 that
Iran, China, Russia & USA are drawing?
The answer is 'no'. During International Women’s Day 2014, Malala
Yousafzai emphasized the strong power of Social Media. The Pakistani
teenager invited young women to use Facebook, not just to collect
'likes' or to show own pictures, but to use the power of communication
to highlight issues related to women.17
Over the last few years, Media started speaking about the Twitter
revolution. Protesters used twitter in cases as Egypt, Iran and
Moldova, to show and share their own disappointments; for example, in
2011, protest tweets were followed by hashtags #Jan25, the starting day
of the protest, and #Egypt (Banks, 2011): hashtags had the power to
catch the attention of the entire world on the same topic.
According to Lev Grossman (2009), Twitter did of course not start the
protests in Iran; therefore it is important to highlight the value of
the Social Network in spreading the protests outside geographical
limits and in reinforcing public convictions that the government could
Therefore, we can affirm that the value of Twitter in politics is huge;
as Brett said, “It’s part of a general transformation of society that
the Internet culture is driving”.
Therefore, even Social Media are a tool to use carefully; as the
Italian President of the Chamber Laura Boldrini (2014) said, even
online it is required to preserve privacy, dignity and also the right
to be forgotten; if Social Media have absolute power in democracy
diffusion, they are even important in guaranteeing the future of
freedom, privacy and autonomy.
And who is the Good and the Bad guy? The US, who want to
impose their own way of thinking through the guise of the 'free market'
or China who mark Western technologies as 'illegal' to dominate their
Only time will tell: the fact is that the world looks split on contents
and ideologies, not in the 'channels' (Social Media), which seems to be
an even more serious issue.
This work started during the studies of the author at
University College Dublin, creating a strong interest in the
development of the sphere of influences. The author wish to acknowledge
P.Doest and A.Zitolo for the assistance provided.
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