In January 2019, there were 2.9 million social media users in Armenia. In one year that figure grew to 3.4 million, and by January 2021, it surpassed 4.5 million. And that was just in Armenia alone. We have changed as a community, harnessed this tool, doubled our social media platforms and made a massive impact on Armenia.
We began fighting for our race. After years of listening to our parents and grandparents telling us what it means to be Armenian, “don’t lose your culture,” ”don’t forget your tongue,” we are finally beginning to understand. Had we not used social media to target disinformation campaigns that used trolls and bots from our opponents, we would have not shifted public opinion. Our comments, tweets and reports of false information or spam accounts were an example of what’s called “advanced listening.” We took on an active role of surveilling and even intervening in social conversations pertaining to our cause, being extra vigilant of those trying to break us down. When articles were written with false information, we organized silent and peaceful protests and demanded and delivered the truth. We were trending on social media because of this. We were at our best because we are survivors. The spirit of our elders and ancestors was ignited through the use of social media.
Social media has become a valuable and powerful tool to keep people connected since its boom back in 2005. Armenian community organizations previously used social media to promote events and share news and programs, while businesses optimized content for engagement. Naturally, it was also used by individuals to share memorable moments from social gatherings, by the youth and elderly alike. But once the pandemic hit and especially after the war started, social media turned into a vital source of communication—a tool—and something so much more important for Armenians than it had been in the past.
Our time on social media increased immediately following the outbreak of the global pandemic. We craved human interaction, so we hosted our events, programs and news in the virtual world. Our community suddenly recognized a new outlet for connection as we made a shift in the use of social media. Even though community gatherings were not the same as before, social media still provided a much-needed comfort. We have utilized many different platforms: Instagram, Zoom, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and even new social networks such as Houseparty and Clubhouse. Dozens of Armenian organizations, like AGBU Global and NAASR, started hosting scholarly panels and virtual events on topics ranging from music and architecture to wellness and meditation. From March to the end of summer, our ties grew as we found a new way to communicate. We did so not only to help us get through the unease and uncertainty of quarantine, but also to remain connected and jovial during these difficult times. Despite social distancing, the pandemic brought us closer.
Fast forward to late September. We became an enraged community watching war unfold in our homeland from afar. Trapped in our homes, we turned to social media to discover and share every ongoing development. Many were able to participate in community-led protests, which were live-streamed and widely shared on Facebook and Instagram—non-stop content and information for our community and everyone around us. Our campaigns even reached celebrities and our non-Armenian friends. It didn’t just stop there. The US House of Representatives and other international bodies, like Spain and France, were also listening. Everything we did on social media played a part in having our voices heard. We weren’t just listening in our local communities anymore; we became global.
Armenians hold the promise of connection.
For 44 days, Armenians worked together. We created groups, marketing campaigns and posts, while collaborating on how to raise our voices. Content sharing and our user interaction increased. We were actually working together. Social media gave us the ability to quickly communicate locally and abroad. Countries stood up with us, and we saw it first hand through social media. Native Armenians were calling for help, so we started building websites, creating charities and donating online—all through social media. We began sending supplies and medical necessities. We listened to the needs of native Armenians, and we responded to their call! We also started purchasing goods and services from Armenia, which helped their businesses prosper. We even communicated what not to buy. “Buy Armenians,” a Facebook group which started in October 2020, now has over 35-thousand members working together to enhance businesses from Armenia. Was this happening pre-war…pre-pandemic? Did we even have this bond in 2019? We were not as connected with Armenia and its people before this time. We were primarily focused on communication within our local areas, but in 2020 we raised awareness about our cause, and it all happened virtually. We became a team.
Armenians hold the promise of connection. We brought our rich network of family and friends as well as our sense of community to social media. We made new friends, built new businesses and developed a new conscious collective which we never had pre-pandemic and pre-war. We created awareness virtually and brought our purpose online for our heroes and our motherland. We are connected and involved like never before! Have we actually created on social media, as William Saroyan once said, “a new Armenia”?