Can a life-defining moment happen in just 140 characters? These women think so…

AmiraHamed (@Amiralx)

“Twitter helped inspired me during the Egyptian revolution”

AmiraHamed, 29, is a journalist and poet based in Cairo. She took part in the protests in Tahrir Square that were the focal point of 2011’s revolution against President Hosni Mubarak.

“The revolution changed the life of every Egyptian and Twitter helped that happen. Some of the most powerful tweets I saw were on January 25 2011, the day of the first big protest. I’m an editor on an independent newspaper, and I’d been covering the news from the office, hearing about people being arrested and beaten. I could see people tweeting from marches and headed to Tahrir Square. Veteran activists who’d been involved in protests for years were ecstatic and the sheer numbers of tweets they were seeing. The more there were, the more people at home were inspired to be part of it – even people who, until then, had been too afraid to participate in protests against President Mobarak’s regime.

When I finished work, I went to Tahrir. I felt compelled - through my job, I’ve been exposed to so many stories of human rights violations and police torture because of Mubarak’s corrupt regime, and it was becoming more blatant – sometimes we’d follow stories for years without seeing justice being brought. Until that night, on some level, I was repressed and afraid – you don’t know who’s going to be detained, beaten or shot. I left the protests after midnight, and soon after that, the crackdown began. I saw tweets from friends telling how they’d been teargassed. It was so emotional. Twitter had become a way to communicate what was happening. You’d send warnings: “Don’t come to this entrance, we’re being attacked.” Someone created an account called @tahrirsupplies, to tweet what was needed by field hospitals. It worked so well that after three or four days they were overstocked.

It was a huge boost to see what was happening here on trending lists worldwide, and to know people around the world supported us. On the day Mubarak fell, I tweeted, “THIS is the most important moment we have ever experienced…we just ousted dictator!” I’ve never felt powerful, and the country was bursting at the seams of hope. That’s why all these regimes were in danger. Twitter may be a public network, but people aren’t afraid to speak their minds anymore.”

Rebecca Gregory (@thinkingbob)

“I helped raise £23,000 for a victim of the London riots on Twitter”

Rebecca Gregory, 26, runs Thinking Bob Events (meetup.com/thinking-bob)


“It was the morning after the worst night of rioting when I saw the #SomethingNiceForAshrafhashtag on Twitter. I was living in Brixton, and all around me shops were burnt out, smashed in or closed up. I was scared to even go out for a walk. I was glued to the TV and Twitter, thinking, is this England? Then, when I saw the Youtube footage of Ashraf Haziq being robbed, like everyone, I was disgusted. Initially, it looked as though those men were going to help him, but then you realise they’re robbing him. When I learned he was an exchange student from Malaysia   who had only been here for a month, I was so ashamed of our country. I really wanted to help.

The hashtag was created by a man named Jamie Cowen, who wanted to raise money either to replace the things that were stolen or to fly his parents over so they could visit him in hospital – Ashraf’s jaw had been broken and some of his teeth were damaged. I volunteer for a charity, so I tweeted him and offered to help. It was so exciting. We were up all night setting up a JustGiving page and Tweeting about it, and after Jamie went on the radio the next morning, it exploded. I couldn’t believe a hashtag could do so much. By the next evening, we had £22,000.

It was exhilarating, but I also started to panic, because the original reasons for raising the money were no longer necessary. By then, Big Fish had replaced his bike, PlayStation had given him a new console and numerous dentists were offering to do his dental work for free. Jamies and I were invited to the Malaysian Embassy to hand over the cheque, and the three of us met. Ashraf is sweet and shy, and he decided to give away some of the money to rebuild a youth centre that had been damaged in this riots.

It showed me the power of Twitter and made people realise our country does have a heart. I’ve had such positive response – the investors in my business told me that what I did with Twitter that day encouraged them to put their faith in me and my business. I acted on impulse, and I’m so glad what I did.”
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