Social Media: A Guide for the Uninitiated

July 06, 2011 , , 1 Comments

It seems that every other article on the Arab Spring reports on something from Twitter and how this platform has been used to bring people together in the recent uprisings.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Twitter, and want to access it in order to find out more about the Arab Spring and what is going on in the Arab world, here is a brief guide:

Like most online communities, the revolutionary movements have their own terminology and slang. Some are listed below. A knowledge of Arabic certainly helps, but Google Translate ( is a great tool for quick reads.

Tweets are short messages, generally linking to outside contact. By choosing other users to follow it’s possible to build your own newswire service. I use a program called TweetDeck, available for Mac and PC, in order to easily search for different topics.

Twitter uses something called “hashtags (#)” to indicate what a tweet relates to. A hashtag looks like this:

Any tweet someone wishes to relate to the subject “Diwaniyya” can be given this tag. Searching for hashtags is a great way to find out what people are saying about a particular issue.

RT: stands for “retweet”, a reposting of content from someone else.

@: is used to indicate someone’s handle

“new egg”: is a user who has not added a profile picture. Treated with suspicion by many Arab tweeters, as it could indicate a government-backed account.

Trending: If a number of users start using the same hashtag, the topic will begin to ‘trend’. Through the twitter website you can view trending topics, a good measure of buzz for an event or a product.

Twitter allows searches and content in non-English languages, though hashtags are almost always in English.

Some popular Middle East Twitter feeds:
[Diwaniyya takes no responsibility for the content of these feeds and their listing here should be in no way construed as an endorsement by either the staff of Diwaniyya or the Moshe Dayan Center]

The Arab Crunch website is a guide to the top 10 Arab twitter users. Supposedly, a directory of Arabic twitter users, was used to compile this data, but the site appears to be down.

Arabic speakers have adopted a variation of the Latinate keyboard in order to represent Arabic letters. This chart on Wikipedia is a handy guide.If you’re a dedicated non-Arabic speaker, it is possible to transcribe Araby (as the script is sometimes known) into traditional Arabic script, then translate using Google. A web app which did this automatically would be very, very useful.

If you want to find out more about the value of social networks, the topic is explored abundantly in the literature on 'social capital.' For further reading see:

1. Granovetter, Mark. “The Strength of Weak Ties” Sociological Theory 1: 201–233.
2. Putnam, Robert. Bowling Alone

Toyotas of War

Diwaniyya Contributor

1 comment:

  1. UPDATE: One of our readers informs us that there actually are Araby translation apps, for example: