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uni'wissen 02-2013_ENG

long time will research each other on Facebook before a meeting to bring themselves up to date.” Sharaf came upon the idea for the topic while doing an internship at a women’s rights organiza- tion in Cairo in 2007. “I learned from a friend what an important role the internet had played for her relationship.” The web can serve as an “intimate space.” After all, a chat is – as long as one takes the necessary precautions – harder to monitor than a landline telephone conversation in one’s living room. “The internet has given young women in particular, but also men, an enormous amount of freedom.” Up until the Egyptian Revolution, however, most Cairenes used this freedom primarily to maintain friendships – not to engage in political discussions. Although demonstrations were oc- casionally announced in Facebook groups, says Sharaf, this was less common than it is today. Until around 2010 people were afraid to state their political views even on social media: “But then that suddenly changed.” At the height of the revolution in late January 2011, the Mubarak government went so far as to block access to the internet and the mobile phone networks for several days to weaken the opposition. “That was a big mistake,” says Sharaf: “After that, even people who hadn’t been politically active before were furious with the re- gime.” Since social media had become so impor- tant for maintaining friendships and planning recreational activities, the internet shutdown also encroached on the daily lives of many apo- litical citizens. “Many friends couldn’t communi- cate with each other any more – because they didn’t have each other’s landline telephone num- bers.” Facebook as an Interactive Newspaper It is evident to Sharaf that social networks – Facebook as well as the microblogging service Twitter, which is less widespread but is used by many activists as a source of information – ex- erted profound influence on the course of the revolution. As a result of her research approach, however, she was able to produce much more evidence of the reverse: The revolution in Egypt changed the way in which friends communicate with each other on Facebook. In some cases, this went so far that circles of friends were bro- ken up entirely: “As soon as the internet was available again, they started arguing,” says Sharaf. People shared information, links to news- paper articles, photos, and political comics. “There is hardly any basis for friendships that transcend class boundaries – whether online or offline” Street art in the Cairo neighborhood Nasr City: Social networks like Facebook and Twitter exerted profound influence on the course of the revolution in Egypt. At the same time, they changed the way friends communicate with each other on the internet. Photo: Kathrin Sharaf 1010