Wael Ghonim, the Egyptian Google employee whose anonymous Facebook page helped to launch the Tahrir Square revolution in early 2011 that toppled President Hosni Mubarak — but then failed to give birth to a true democratic alternative.
Here is what Wael Ghonim concluded about social media today: “First, we don’t know how to deal with rumors. Rumors that confirm people’s biases are now believed and spread among millions of people.” Second, “We tend to only communicate with people that we agree with, and thanks to social media, we can mute, unfollow and block everybody else. Third, online discussions quickly descend into angry mobs. … It’s as if we forget that the people behind screens are actually real people and not just avatars.
“And fourth, it became really hard to change our opinions. Because of the speed and brevity of social media, we are forced to jump to conclusions and write sharp opinions in 140 characters about complex world affairs. And once we do that, it lives forever on the Internet.”
Fifth, and most crucial, he said, “today, our social media experiences are designed in a way that favors broadcasting over engagements, posts over discussions, shallow comments over deep conversations. … It’s as if we agreed that we are here to talk at each other instead of talking with each other.”
Ghonim has not given up. He and a few friends recently started a website, Parlio.com, to host intelligent, civil conversations about controversial and often heated issues, with the aim of narrowing gaps, not widening them. (I participated in a debate on Parlio.com and found it engaging and substantive.)
“Five years ago,” concluded Ghonim, “I said, ‘If you want to liberate society, all you need is the Internet.’ Today I believe if we want to liberate a society, we first need to liberate the Internet.”
Carl (Charlie) L. Heegaard is a formally educated independent business person who has been working for himself in a wide, diverse gamma of endeavors for more than 50 years.
Charlie graduated from college in 1970 with a degree in finance and industrial management from Nichols College of Business Administration in Dudley, Massachusetts. He also studied cooking and hotel management at the Institut Internationale de Glion in Monteux, Switzerland.
He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ghana, West Africa, organizing credit union societies for the Ewe people in the Volta Region of Ghana.
Charlie married Liliana, whom he met while studying in Switzerland and together they traveled to Colombia, SA where they built a restaurant chain, Charlies Roastbeef, which they ran together for more than thirty years. They produced three children, all girls, who today are all professionals running their own enterprises.
Charlie and Liliana are now retired living in Miami, Florida. They are both busier than ever each dedicated to their own interests. They enjoy cooking and traveling together and stay active in their community.