As a result, we have seen one of the most violent clashes between the Turkish public and the police force in recent years. What's even more interesting about these events, is that social media has become the main hub for the organization of the protests that roiled the streets for a few days.
Turkey has a population of 75 million people with an average age of 30. The Internet-using population of the country is over 35 million. This means that Turkey has the fifth largest population of Internet users in Europe, following Germany, Russia, the UK and France. There are 67 million mobile phone subscribers in the country.
With 32 million Facebook and 9.7 million Twitter users, Turkey is very active on social networks. These networks play an important role as a means for the public to share and express their opinions, according to Yasin Kesen, founder of the social media monitoring company sosyalmedya.in. But when the protests in Gezi Park spiked, these statistics skyrocketed:
- On a typical day, there are 9 to 11 million tweets sent in Turkey.
- When events began to spark on May 31, the total number of tweets sent in Turkey reached 15.2 million.
- That same day, 558 thousand Turkish Twitter users sent a total of 3.7 million tweets using the #geziparkı hashtag, or the words “Taksim” or “Gezi Parkı.”
- On June 1, the total number of the tweets sent in Turkey reached 27.5 million.
- 15 million of these tweets were uniquely related to the ongoing protests or damage caused by the clashes.
- #GeziParki #OccupyGezi #DirenGeziParki and #tayipistifa hashtags became worldwide trending topics, drawing international attention to the events.
So what do all these numbers indicate? There are three things that come to my mind:
- The protesters are replacing the traditional tools of news with social media networks.
The popularity of social networks like Twitter encourage people to express their ideas with others. A lack of mainstream news media coverage forces the crowds to invent new ways of exchanging information and showing their dedication to their cause.
- During periods of social unrest, sharing provocative news on social media creates a snowball effect.
Tweets sent by influential users are re-tweeted by thousands and affect the general sentiment of the public. These tweets might not always represent the facts and provocative photos or false stories can be shared as actual fact and get a lot of attention.
- Social media networks enable the participation of non-activist groups in social protest.
The ease of interaction on social networks can help non-activist users to get involved in the protests. The number of the messages appearing on the timelines of the social media users reached a level that cannot be denied. Users start to support or oppose an idea by expressing their own point of view. Thus, a very large buzz can be created that echoes on in the infinite digital tunnels of the World Wide Web?