Social media rule the world. And if not the world, then at least Egypt. During the uprising of 25 January the various forms of social media played a crucial role and citizen journalism and shaky videos taken on phones bore witness to atrocities that were vigorously denied in the more traditional press. I could see how these new forms of communication had an added value beyond their traditional intentions, but on a personal level I was still wary of them.
Until these past few weeks, when I could no longer disdainfully dismiss the importance of social media because a myriad of presidential decrees, new laws, the revocation of them, the amendment of decrees, the issuing of yet other ones, invitations to meetings, rescheduled meetings, and press conferences were relayed to the nation through digital channels.
The president will address the nation? Forget State TV, Twitter will have it first. Someone gives a press conference? The time and place are announced through SMS. A new law is announced that will tax many people into deeper poverty? If you did not check your Facebook at two in the morning you will live forever in financial bliss, or at least until the bills come in.
Spokespeople issue statements on behalf of their bosses to have these same superiors deny what just was released. As juicy bits of possible news are tweeted, shared and forwarded as set-in-stone-news, everybody and their mother present personal opinions as sound analysis, adding to the enormous number of ones and zeros that are produced here every day.
I have seen the light, and as a loyal follower of trends I have implemented the example of those who rule the country in the office. Since last week I only communicate with the art and culture reporter by tweets and Facebook. Only last Monday I sent him a change in our scheduled articles, telling him to cancel an interview with one musician and make an appointment with another. Boy, did he get an earful when he showed up the next day with the wrong interview. His feeble excuse that he did not see the message was unacceptable; I had sent him a tweet. At 3am.
Interoffice communication has ceased as well, we now only converse on G-chat. I have to admit that I refused at first, thinking it was some dodgy site that discussed female undies, but after my boss forced me to sign up I quickly saw the merit of this impersonal way of conversing and the silence in the office is blissful.
It is obvious my boss has been following the news as well, to be expected from a managing editor of a newspaper, given that she issues directives every morning to only rescind them by mid-afternoon. At first she used email, and most of us would read it, but in the past few days she has resorted to tweets and half the time in Arabic. Since she uses a handle that is different from her name and at least a quarter of the office does not read Arabic very well, the scenes of confusion and discontent are many but that seems to be par for the course in this new age of digital communication.
With the abundance of changes of mind that pervade our premises these days there are not very many happy workers left. The reporters have slowly sunk into despair, not knowing from one moment to the next what they are supposed to be writing about. The design team gloomily creates pages that will never see the light of day. The copy editors only pick up stories after a suitable time has passed after they have been handed over, to avoid working away only to have the story killed. Us editors take turns into boycotting communicating all together or simply answering no to any questions asked.
Overall, suspicion reigns supreme and at lunchtime hapless delivery men are quizzed strenuously if they expect ideological conversions besides money for the food they bring.
I remain optimistic though, now I have finally entered the age of modernity. As I walked down the stairs, I passed the sit-in of the reporters in the cafeteria but since I was not notified of it, I could happily ignore it. On the way home I decided I would rather have another version of this column appear in print tomorrow. So if all goes as planned you will never get to read this. I am full of confidence this will happen.
I announced it on Facebook.