Not long ago, going into Facebook at the workplace was a dangerous thing: Quick fingers would close the browser window as soon as the boss approached or at least open a new window to give the impression of productivity. Many workplaces blocked access altogether.
Those days are gone. As a journalist I may even be reprimanded if I don't have Facebook open. The reason is simple: The social network has become a source of information no less important than the wire services, a place for real-time updates about what is happening and what is about to happen.
But the role of Facebook is not limited to news updates. The protesters on Rothschild Boulevard hold meetings where everyone can have a say. On Facebook, one status update can provoke a flood of responses and turn into a heated public debate.
Facebook is what radio was in the early days of the state, what television was when the Iron Curtain crumbled, what the newspapers were during the Spring of Nations. The protests over the price of gas, cottage cheese and, of course, housing, would not have accelerated as they did without Facebook.
It's even possible that without this platform, where people can call for a boycott and get infinitely more exposure for their views than they would by standing in the town square, these protests would have never taken place.
These are crazy times in the virtual world of Facebook. One strand of civil action meets another, 1,000 more people join a protest and a chain reaction that began with nothing in the morning can build up into a demonstration that is thousands strong by evening.
"What's happening tonight?" a friend asks. "Go to Facebook, all the details are there," I tell her. "I told you I'm against Facebook, I want to maintain my privacy," she says. But the wall of opposition is slowly but surely cracking; "perhaps today I will join," she finally says.
We can live without Facebook. We can join a protest without joining it. But social networking is here to stay, whether in the form of Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus.
Yet the power of the green movement in Iran, the Egyptian Revolution and Israel's housing protests lies in these engines, which are gradually transforming into tools at the hands of the citizens, enabling them to protest, to go out into the street – and perhaps once and a while upload a video of a cat playing the piano.
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