Bareed Mista3jil: A Case Study

Social Media is cool. We all know that it’s easy and cheap so we all want to use it to advance our cause. But when asked about Social Media tools (be it blogging, facebook for activism, twitter etc.) my answer is always the same: Social Media is like having a baby, anyone can do it, but not everyone can do it successfully.
One example of successful Social Media for Social Change was the launching of the book: Bareed Mista3jil. The publication, a collection of 41 short (true) stories of Lesbian, Bisexual, Queer women and Transgender and Transsexual individuals in Lebanon, took place on Saturday the 30th of May 2009, at al Madina Theater (Yes it was at the same day of SMEX Introductory Meeting). The book was launched by Meem, the Feminist Collective and IndyACT.
Why am I talking about this book on the SMEX blog? Well simply because knowing the Feminist Collective and IndyACT, I know that they both deal with Social Media on a regular basis, be it online or offline.
Of course, the committee responsible for the launching made a website, created a facebook event and invited people, and of course they sent out notifications to their lists (I personally received two invitations through mailing list). But they did not stop there.
In the couple of weeks before the launching, I was checking out my facebook and someone writes on my wall: “Natra Bareed?” Then another friend, and another, and another. Yes they used viral campaigns to market the event.
Then the teasing evolved into asking: “Natra Bareed?” accompanied by an ad:

And then, I am not sure how they got to this point, but they got everyone to play this “Natra Bareed” game. On facebook I would see “Natra Bareed” everywhere I go on facebook.
At the same time, the message was being passed through word of mouth on various mailing lists. I ended up receiving the event invitation from a friend that was not even affiliated to the Feminist Collective or to IndyACT.
Naturally, the more traditional media had to be invited. News agencies, magazines and newspapers were at the event. Having been involved with both organizations on the media level, I know they both have very good contacts with media, but media wouldn’t cover the event if they didn’t see it relevant and interesting. That’s where the whole viral campaign paid off. The organizers had their media contacts on their facebook and so these journalists, photographers and reporters were able to feel the momentum of the event.
And finally the day of the event came and I felt, like many others, that I can’t miss the event. Afterall I was “Natra Bareed”. And yes the event was a success. But why the hassle? Why didn’t they rely strictly on the mainstream media?
Mainstream media is reliable. If you can convince this reporter, or that journalist to cover your event, you know that a great number of people will read the publication. But alternative media has undeniable advantages.
First of all, alternative media is participatory, in the facebook viral campaign almost everyone who posted or reposted “Natra Bareed” felt more involved and showed up at the event.
In addition, alternative media can be much more selective than mainstream media. With the LGBTQ issues, it is critical to be selective. In the absence of protective laws and social tolerance, organizing an event remotely related to homosexuality and transsexuality can be dangerous. But on that event, out of the hundreds there were not one homophobe that felt confident enough to react in any way. Security agents did not have any irregularities to deal, not a single one! Simply because attendants were invited by LGBTQ individuals, or gay/trans-friendly individuals.
In the end, regardless of what I, or others, think of the subject, it is undeniable that this sexual and gender minority has found in the internet a place where they can express their opinions and feelings in relative safety. The Bareed Mista3jil example can be adapted to various other contexts, be it with twitter, facebook or blogs, masses need to feel involved in the process of preparing an event. If you do not include your audience, you audience will not feel any ownership of whatever even you are organizing.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *