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Saudi Arabia: Al Farhan Returns to Blogging

The Fouad is Free banner from www.alfarhan.org/

Popular Saudi blogger Fuad Al Farhan is back to blogging – to the delight of the blogging community.

Al Farhan stopped blogging for the second time after his arrest on December 10, 2007. Although no official charges were pressed, he was held in solitary confinement, and finally released on April 26, 2008. Prior to this, he had also stopped blogging for a period of time, after government officials warned him to “tone down” his commentary (see source above) – making this his third debut into the world of blogging.

Upon his return to blogging, Al Farhan, who is outspoken in favour of political reform in the Kingdom, writes a post entitled: Blogging..the Best Option, which opens up a debate on the merits and disadvantages of micro-blogging and social networks.

In this post, he says:

كتبت مسبقاً 25 سبباً تجعلنا ندخل عالم التدوين (لماذا ندون؟)
ولازالت وستبقى أسباب قوية وقائمة وصحيحة من وجهة نظري. بعد أكثر من سنتين
من الانقطاع عن التدوين قررت العودة مرة ثالثة لهذا الفضاء الجميل الذي لم
أنقطع عن متابعته يوماً.
I had previously written 25 reasons why we blog and those reasons, in my opinion, are still strong and valid. After two years of not blogging, I have decided to return to this lovely space, which I have never stopped following, for the third time.

Al Farhan then discusses the different social media tools he was using while away from his blog. About Facebook, he writes:

جربت الفيسبوك فترة طويلة وأعجبني كما أعجب المليون ونصف سعودي المسجلين فيه، وأبرز ميزاته هي:

  • سرعة التعرف والتواصل مع الأصدقاء
  • سرعة وكثافة مشاركة المحتويات مع الأصدقاء
  • قوة وفعالية التخطيط والتجمع والعمل الجماعي
  • الراحة من الهم التقني والفني (جميع صفحات مستخدمي الفيسبوك نفس الشيء وتختلف في المحتويات فقط)
  • متعة الترفيه
I tried Facebook for a long period of time, just like the 1.5 million Saudis registered in it and its main characteristics are:

The speed at which you get to know and communicate with friends
The speed and intensity of participation from friends
The strength and effectiveness of planning, gathering and group work
Not bothering with the technical and technological details (all the Facebook user pages are the same and differ in content only)
The entertainment factor

But everything has its down side – and here are Facebook‘s, in Al Farhan's words:

ولكن في النهاية وجدت أن سلبياته أكثر من إيجابياته بالنسبة لي ومنها:
* إدمان الفيسبوك ظاهرة معروفة وكنت أحد ممن أصيب بهذا الإدمان حتى عطلت حسابي هناك
* تعويد المرء على كتابة جمل قصيرة تعليقاً على ما يشاركه من محتويات وأخبار لاتوفي بشرح الرأي والفكرة بشكل كامل مما يؤدي في أحيان كثيرة لسوء وقصر فهم المتلقي
* كثافة الجدل الفكري السلبي (وليس الإيجابي المطلوب)
* الترفيه يطغى على الفيسبوك بشكل واضح والإضافة الثقافية فيه أقل بكثير من التدوين
However, I now realise that its side effects are more than its benefits for me:
Getting addicted to Facebook is a well known phenomenon and I was one of those who suffered from this addiction until I suspended by account there
Getting used to writing short and concise sentences in response to comments on links to news and opinions does not enable us to explain ourselves thoroughly – often leading to misunderstandings
A lot of the intellectual arguments are negative (and not the positive ones we need)
Entertainment is huge component of Facebook, and this is evident, and its cultural component is much less than in blogging

Another medium Al Farhan toyed with during his hiatus from blogging was Twitter, where he is still actively tweeting away. He writes:

جربت تويتر كمنصة للتواصل مع الأصدقاء بديلاً عن الفيسبوك ولازلت نشيطاً فيه
I tried Twitter to stay in touch with friends, instead of Facebook, and am still active there

On Twitter’s benefits, he blogs:

  • سرعة وكثافة مشاركة الأصدقاء بالوصلات المثيرة للإهتمام الشخصي مع تعليق قصير
  • سرعة وكثافة تغطية الأحداث والأخبار (كارثة جدة وأمطار الرياض وتأثير
    تويتر فيهما في تداول الأحداث المباشرة بسرعة شديدة قبل ظهورها على
    الإعلام التقليدي)
  • ندرة الجدل الفكري السلبي وتميز المستخدمين بشكل عام بالرقي في التواصل
The speed and intensity of tweets, with interesting links and short comments
The speed and intensity of covering news, like the Jeddah rain catastrophe, the rain in Riyadh and other breaking news faster than they appeared in mainstream media
Very few negative intellectual arguments and most users are very civil in their communication

As for Twitter‘s disadvantages, Al Farhan says:

  • إدمان تويتر مثل إدمان الفيسبوك وأصبح ظاهرة معروفة ولكن بدرجة أقل من الفيسبوك
  • يبقى اختصار رأيك وفكرتك في 140 حرف هو تحدي دائم، ولذلك تويتر جيد
    للفت الإنتباه لوصلة معينة أو خبر معين ولكن لا يكفي للتعبير عن رأي
    متكامل يحتاج مساحة ومكان أكبر خارج تويتر
  • الصعوبة التقنية في التعامل مع أرشيف التويتات والبحث فيها وفي قائمة الأصدقاء
Getting addicted to Twitter is just like getting addicted to Facebook – but less severe
The fact that you have to limit your opinion to 140 characters continues to remain a challenge, this is why Twitter is important to draw attention to links or certain news. In order to express yourself fully and adequately, you will need a space outside Twitter
There is a technical difficulty in dealing with the Twitter archives and searching for Tweets there and on your contact lists

Al Farhan also writes about his experience with Tumblr, before returning to explain why he is back to blogging:

بعد هذه التجارب، أرى أن التدوين هو المنصة الأفضل لي للتواصل مع العالم
من حولي بما يثير اهتمامي وأحب مشاركة الآخرين فيه. هذا التقييم شخصي ولا
يعني أنه ينطبق على كل شخص. كل شخص يجد أحد هذه الشبكات الإجتماعية تناسبه
أكثر من الأخرى لأسباب شخصية وهي من حقه بكل تأكيد. أعرف أصدقاء لا يخرجون
من عالم الفيسبوك ويكرهون ولا يفهمون تويتر. وأعرف أصدقاء آخرين تعرفوا
على تمبلر وألغوا مدوناتهم. وأعرف أناس يدخلون على تويتر قبل أن يغسلوا
وجوههم عندما يصحون الصباح. يبقى التدوين هو الأقرب لشخصي، ويبقى المدونين والمدونات وبالذات الجيل الأول هم الأقرب لقلبي وهم يعرفون أنفسهم جيداً :)
After all those experiences, I find that blogging is my favourite medium for remaining connected to the world around me in a manner that keeps me interested as I love the involvement of others in it. This is a personal assessment and it doesn't mean that it should apply to everyone else. Every person finds that one of those social networks is more suitable for him than the rest for personal reasons and the choice is certainly his. I know friends who never leave the world of Facebook, and who hate and cannot understand Twitter. I also have friends who abandoned their blogs the minute they discovered Tumblr. And I also know people who access Twitter before they even wash their faces when they wake up in the morning. As for me, blogging remains my personal favourite and bloggers and blogs, particularly the early bloggers, are closest to my heart and they know themselves.

Al Farhan used to previously blog here.

4 comments

  • Why not just speak truth to each other? I wonder if birds, or fish, tell lies? Do animals lie to each other? Do bees, or butterflies, lie? No! I thinkl not, my friends. I believe when the first pope of Rome was announced to the people, the world then began it’s terrible, downward descent into the Underworld of Rome. Germany, Sicily, and Britain, who with powerful religious/political guile, began their chokehold colonialism, spreading death, hatred, fear, and unclean sex among the inhabitants of the world. Only truth itself could ever save mankind, and truth, as our Conscience, comes from Almighty God in Heaven as our Messiah, Redeemer, Saviour, Christ, or whichever name we have been taught to use. Teach our children to speak truth. Love one another with purity. Educate ourselves, groom ourselves. There is one God of the universe, but we must love and hearken also to Mother Earth’s motherly instruction, and hearken to Father Nature’s fatherly laws. Live cleanly. Live beautifully. The world belongs to all and no one creation has to beg permission to live in it. So to each his own – and I love you all. God bless.xx

  • I read (in translation) Fuad’s political commentaries before he was arrested in 2007. Just out of curiosity, if Fuad is planning to start sharing his thoughts in English?

  • […] Hussaini, Amira. “Saudi Arabia: Al Farhan Returns to Blogging.” Global Voices. May […]

  • […] Hussaini, Amira. “Saudi Arabia: Al Farhan Returns to Blogging.” Global Voices. May […]

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