Redefining a Refugee Crisis Through the Means of Social Media: Part II


While in Syria, people are viewing and analyzing information from a threatening or anxious perspective, they are using social media to share awareness, stories, and information about the crisis. Murray E. Jannex would explain in his book, Implementing Social Media in Crisis Response Using Knowledge Management, how social media and wiki’s in particular, are a reliable resource to turn to in times of crisis, “Wikis are excellent or collaborative authoring and storage, organization, and dissemination of document, process, and solutions.” (222) They use it as a tool to help protect one another and share information about attacks. Some of this information includes where recent attacks were, who they were from, even who died in the attacks. In a prior interview on this blog, written by Jackie Barba, Ahmad Dallal, expressed that a friend’s death was confirmed via Facebook, “I lost a friend. He died from a rocket that came from the sky, and I don’t know where it came from, because nobody ever knows. He was just walking down the street and he died. I heard ‘Mohammad is dead,’ and then I saw the photos on Facebook.” ( To help share what exactly it is like to live in a city filled with terrorism and shed light to the root of the displacement, people will post graphic photos and videos to Facebook and YouTube, even though they could encounter a death penalty from the regime. Ahmad would explain later in the interview that the photos and videos, that they could be so graphic that it may portray a mangled body that is completely unrecognizable. Ahmad would explain in the same interview, that it is through this videos, while graphic and disturbing, it tells the truth of what is happening in Syria. It shares a picture that is generally blocked out in the main stream media. Especially in places such as the United States. By filtering what is real, it continues to mold that stigma of the refugee crisis. However, these videos and images that are shared bring the clear and true perspective of what has been occurring.

With education and opportunity, they are cell phone users much like Americans are. An article published through Independent supplied the fiscal breakdown of an average citizen living in Syria,

“Syria is not a rich country, but it is not a poor country either: it ranks as a “lower middle income” according to the World Bank. In 2007 (the last year stats for both were available) Syria had a Gross National Income (GNI) per capita of $1850 which is more than Egypt at the time, which was only at $1620. Mobile phone penetration is similarly high in Syria as Egypt too. According to the CIA World Factbook in 2014 Syria had 87 mobile phones per 100 of the population, compared to Egypt’s 110 per 100 (the UK has 123 per 100 people) (O’Malley).

It would not be until 2011, that having a cellular device would no longer just be a means of daily communication, but one of survival and proof of safety. It has proven to be one of the most vital tools for refugees on their journey to find sanctuary. Smartphones for a refugee, are a multi-faceted tool and are highly important to make it safely to their destination. By using GPS while cross the Mediterranean Sea, using a free messaging App to talk to their family, or even sending a selfie the prove their safely and location. This form of technology has paved the way for a modern-day refugee and their safety to finding asylum. In an article by Luke Graham of CNBC News, it discussed an interview with Paul Donohue of the International Rescue Committee and the various ways a refugee has used a smartphone during their journey, “Donohoe also met a Syrian refugee whose boat sank as he crossed the straights from Turkey to Lesbos. He used WhatsApp to alert the Greek coastguards, and used his phone’s GPS to make sure he swam in the right direction towards the island.” The same article would discuss a photo project that was done called What’s in my bag which noted the possessions of the refugees. In their bags, it was most common to find a smartphone, a charging cable, and even a back-up cell phone to have during emergencies or if their other phone broke. In addition to GPS and messaging, they also largely use their phones for translating foreign languages and using currency exchanging apps. While as a college student living in the United States or in Western Europe, a smartphone is a means of texting or Snapchatting friends, or posting an image to Instagram, for a refugee, it is a tool of safety. It has helped them along the way and has grossly impacted their rate of survival.

Refugees have been fleeing from one side of the world to another throughout the history of mankind. However, in recent years, the process of that journey has been revolutionized and redefined by advancements in technology and the development of social media. The capabilities of social media in the hands of a refugee has allowed them to find themselves on the opposite ends of the world. It has allowed them to reconnect and stay connected to their families during displacement. It grants them the means to finding their way from Syria to Europe safely and efficiently. When they are experiencing terror or are in need of help and assistance, they are able to reach out to those resources. But most importantly it has authorized them these people to share the truth, to tell their story, keep one another safe, and to break the stigma of what it means to be a refugee.

We Don’t Know What We’re Not Told

Prior to setting off on this German endeavor to document the refugee resettlement, I received an array of reactions. Most of which consisted of immediate surprise, skepticism, and curiosity. Most people were initially shocked that a young, blonde-haired, blue-eyed, bubbly 22-year-old female was interested in contributing to such a momentous and complex topic – and even more – that I was interested in working with actual refugees.

Continue reading “We Don’t Know What We’re Not Told”