Bitcoin And The Arab Spring: Lessons For Revolutionaries Communicating
Bitcoin is a Monetary Revolution
Bitcoin is not simply a new monetary tool, a new currency, or an additional asset class. I tell people that Bitcoin is a Monetary Revolution. The Bitcoin eco-system is full of innovations to bring value beyond simply price growth to new all-time-highs. You can say that the value proposition is built on the foundations of the ever-expanding benefits of the wonder-currency.
After my failed attempt to first invest in Bitcoin in early 2010, I found myself traveling and working in the Middle East, and Egypt in particular, later that year. Inadvertently, the events of the Arab Spring in the region showed me how today the Social Layer of Bitcoin can be a powerful tool supporting Bitcoin adoption.
The year 2010 was the culmination of several visits I made to the region over the previous years that allowed me to amass a large group of friends and colleagues in Egypt. Egypt is a massively impressive country that hosts a grand capital. Cairo is the world’s first truly international metropolis. In some way its ancient wonders mask the multinational and multicultural mix of the city. It is a financial hub, the people are wondrous, friendly, and open to ideas. It is the globe’s first melting pot, having been established as such thousands of years before New York city coined the phrase. I found the most delicious sushi restaurants in Cairo, the best mango and the freshest fish served on the banks of the Nile River brought in from the Alexandria seaside.
Unfortunately, underlying the ancient wonders there existed issues of poverty, political unease, and the impact from regional tensions. I was told that around 1/3rd of the population of Cairo’s approximately 20 million people had trouble feeding themselves daily. Bribes to public servants, while prevalent, were not really the wicked administrative corruption found in the Western world but occurred as a survival mechanism to enable people to simply earn enough money for their daily necessities. The brewing pot of concerns in Egypt and the region ignited the Arab Spring in late 2010 and early 2011.
The Role of Social Media and the Social Layer
When we speak about Bitcoin adoption, we talk about expanding the understanding and knowledge of people. The Bitcoin eco-system is filled with start-ups offering both free and paid services to help the broader public become knowledgeable and comfortable enough to adopt it. Not only is understanding important, the ability for current users to interact and communicate among themselves with clarity and no noise is also vital.
Just as with Bitcoin adoption and the need for a supporting communication framework through the Social Layer, the role of Social Media was equally important in contributing to the events of the Arab Spring. Wikipedia stated that “In the wake of the Arab Spring protests, a considerable amount of attention focused on the role of social media and digital technologies in allowing citizens within areas affected by ‘the Arab Uprisings’ as a means for collective activism to circumvent state-operated media channels.”
In 2010 Facebook was the go-to platform for attempting to communicate semi-noise-free on various topics and connect with like-minded cohorts. It was the organizing tool anchoring a broader Social Layer supported by the likes of WhatsApp and Tango, with the latter being the main used chat app across the Middle East at that time and the mechanism, along with direct old-style phone calls, that I used to keep in touch with my Egyptian friends and colleagues.
Noise and the Social Layer
We all know about and have experienced email spam, fake accounts on various social media portals, and comments from influencers that are masked self-promotions. In the Bitcoin world, we often attribute such noise to the crypto-sphere with the all-to-often “free coin giveaway” promotions.
Noise, or white noise as was written about in the novel titled “White Noise” by Don DeLillo in 1985 that won the U.S. National Book Award for Fiction, has haunted Bitcoiners for over a decade. This noise equally impaired efforts during the Arab Spring in allowing clear communication between people. It continues to impair Bitcoiners like myself today, if perhaps under less ominous circumstances.
A social experience or movement can only become an effective Social Layer when noise is lessened. Reducing or removing noise enables development of a usable and supportive Social Layer for Bitcoin.
Lessons for Bitcoiners
During the days of the Arab Spring, reports by mainstream media in the region were highly questioned. The region did not trust the various cable-based news services. This reinforced the role of a Social Layer as the mechanism to communicate and share views, thoughts, and plans. For me, I tried often in vain to keep updated about the events and the safety of my friends. However, news sources were unclear, often conflicting, and biased. I took all this with a grain-of-salt and had to go directly to the sources on the ground, meaning chats with my friends via Tango, following Facebook groups and via old-style phone calls.
Like the noise I experience today when trying to understand and sort through information that is valuable and factual regarding Bitcoin, I experienced the same noise dilemma during the Arab Spring events.
Today I am frustrated when I read a report or see a Tweet commenting on the price of Bitcoin based on some influencer’s supposed “expertise”, only to then find over the next few weeks that Bitcoin rallies to a near-term high. I recall one specific Tweet, just as when Bitcoin hit its recent cycle low, saying that “we should all expect it to hit $10,000.” I am not a trader of Bitcoin but get upset when this type of noise is spread. I also get irritated when I am contacted by someone implying that they are a Bitcoiner only to find out that they just want to connect within the realm of the dating-world and don’t even know how to spell hodl. Back during the Arab Spring, I was equally frustrated when phone calls to colleagues dropped unexpectedly, messages via Tango were cryptic and the Facebook accounts of friends were blocked. With frustration the questions I sent were often unanswered: “Was that you on TV at the march?” “Is your area of Cairo blocked off?”
While today I can say that noise in the Bitcoin world is more of an unreasonable annoyance, to my friends in Egypt noise was a matter of personal well-being or even life-and-death. Social Media then was the means for mobilization and action, a Social Layer. Today the Social Layer of Bitcoin is the mechanism for pursuing further adoption. We are all certainly irritated today when some social media giants block or restrict accounts that discuss Bitcoin. However, can you imagine what it felt like to my Egyptian friends back in 2011 when they could not access their perceived noise-free gateways to understand what their future would hold?
The Monetary Revolution meets the Social Layer Revolution
I have experienced that “Noise” is the adversary of freedom. It impaired my Egyptian friends from effectively supporting their desired national transformation. It also impairs my support for Bitcoin and its Monetary Revolution. A strong Social Layer provides feeling, context and motivation. Just as I felt the angst of my friends day-to-day as they experienced the uncertainties of the Arab Spring, I feel disappointment when I seek to find rigorous and valuable connections in the Bitcoin space that only result in wasted time and false relations. From my first investment in Bitcoin I have supported the development of its echo-system and simultaneously support the role-out of a deep Social Layer so that there can be Less Noise but More Signal.
What I have learned from my experience is that the Social Layer of Bitcoin is creating a Social Revolution for the asset. We need to disrupt old modes of communication to assure and protect the ability for real human interaction among Bitcoiners that is not impaired by noise. I don’t want to have my life’s Bitcoin connections held ransom to the whims of whom I meet only randomly. I am taking the seeds of what I learned from the time during the Arab Spring and planting them today in Bitcoin’s Social Layer. Stronger relationships will help to build a stronger Bitcoin.
This is a guest post by Enza Coin. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.