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July 2 2022 9:29 PM ˚
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Social media should inspire strategies, not selective reactions

Khalid Dalal
Khalid Dalal is a former advisor at the Royal Hashemite Court, a former director of media and communication at the Office of His Majesty King Abdullah, and works currently as a senior advisor for business development at Al-Ghad and Jordan News.
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The tragic death of Rayan, the Moroccan child who fell in a well in a remote community, would have been probably unheard of without social media, in particular. The news was devastating for millions across the globe who followed the live-streaming of efforts to save the five-year-old boy who tragically passed away.اضافة اعلان

Rayan’s story showed us all that social media has immense power that can make a huge difference to the reality we live, and more importantly, to the future we inspire.

To those observing the changes brought about by the new media, and those caring to learn lessons from incidents such as the tragedy of the Moroccan child, maybe the most interesting aspect are the ripples social media have across borders.

In the aftermath of the incident, authorities in various countries, including Jordan, Morocco itself, Saudi Arabia and UAE, among several others, immediately started surveys of unauthorized and abandoned wells, to close them, for being a potential public hazard.

The question, however, is: Why do we need a tragic incident to go viral to react, when these public hazards exist all over and have been there for ages?

Undeniably, there is a pattern in officials’ behavior. They, in many cases, leave things as they are, only to start acting, or saying that they will act, when a story like Rayan’s breaks, confident that the public and the media have the memory of a goldfish.

A simple research of, for example, authorities exhibiting illegal behavior in the public sphere, like reckless driving and speeding, shows that most punitive measures are taken in reaction to videos posted by citizens on social media. This course of action is dangerous; it indicates that the people in charge are inclined to sweep the dirt under the carpet if nobody is watching.

Abandoned wells are not the only danger. We do remember the many precious lives lost on the Amman-Aqaba and the Azraq highways. The acceleration of undertakings to fix these death roads was, at least partly, triggered by the pressing public opinion, especially on social media platforms.

But this is not a uniquely Jordanian problem, nor is it an issue of policy makers and executers. The World Food Program, for example, was vocal in the past weeks, reminding us of the catastrophic situation in Yemen, where families feed children tree leaves to keep them alive. If we can elicit half the compassion that we saw worldwide on the occasion of Rayan’s tragedy, maybe we can save the lives of thousands of Yemeni children by pressing governments and international NGOs to act and donate.

The list is long. By the end of 2020, around 35 million children were among the 82 million forcibly displaced people around the world, according to international organizations. Not only are these children exposed to cold, hunger and disrupted education, they are also susceptible to extremists’ influence and usually live in an environment where terrorist recruiters abound. These children also deserve our attention and compassion, not in the form of short-lived outbursts of sympathy, but through consistent policies aimed to give back normal life to underprivileged fellow humans.

The influence of social media is unstoppable, and here to stay, growing at the expense of the mainstream; therefore, our job is to harness this immense power for good causes, and sustain it. To help and empower people and to plan for the future, guided by the insight provided by these platforms.

Social media might be seen as random and highly selective, but for sure they can inspire strategies, and that is exactly what we need.



The writer is a former advisor at the Royal Hashemite Court, a former director of media and communication at the Office of His Majesty King Abdullah, and works currently as a senior advisor for business development at Al-Ghad and Jordan News.

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