Social Networking Sites Aid Iranians Trying to Assert Identity
Social Networking Sites Aid Iranians Trying to Assert Identity

Iranians, and especially Iranian youth, are using the internet to connect with each other all over the world and assert their own identities.

Sam Sedaei says that identity is like an invisible man, and for him as an Iranian American, a coherent identity can be even more difficult to see. A blogger for the Huffington Post, Sedaei claims that writing served as a sort of white powder for him, which he could then throw over the invisible man and discover his shape. In his opinion, writing helps affirm identities, which makes sites such as Facebook, Twitter and other blogging sites all the more important as Iran's youth tries to shape its own identity.

"That's how I see writing," said Sedaei.  "It's not so much that it makes your identity, but that it helps you see it, and it helps you be able to define it better and understand it better. So to that extent, absolutely social networking has a big role in helping Iranian youth."

In efforts to repress any revolutionary fervor in the past few years, Iran has deemed large gatherings of people to be suspicious. But now with social networking, Iranians can gather by the thousands on a Facebook group, or communicate using Twitter. These new forms of communication are helping Iranian youth communicate with each other and shape their identity just as Sedaei did.

But it was not only the Iranians inside Iran who were working with new forms of communication to affirm their identities. Iranians living overseas, like Sedaei, watched Iran closer than ever before. With tools such as social networking sites, he says those Iranians became more than observers.

"Social networking allowed Iranians throughout the world to become participants in a movement that was going on, on the ground," said Sedaei.

Iranians living outside Iran started contributing to the movement and supporting the movement in more diverse ways than simply posting blog posts. Iranian art flourished outside the country as Iranians began making art pertaining to the revolution. Iranian underground musicians, such as the Iranian hip-hop musician Hich-Kas (meaning nobody in Persian), started exporting their music over the internet. This music is emotionally charged, full of political lyrics and represents another fusion of Iranian and Western identity.

However, the movement still faces greater challenges than it did last year. The same means of communication that were used to speak out are being used by the government as a way of shutting down the opposition. The government controlled media outlets such as newspapers, now appear online. Blogging sites are tracked and some bloggers can even be arrested.

But is this going to be a problem for people trying to communicate in Iran? Sedaei admits that the outflow of information from Iran has subsided, but he does not believe that it has stopped forever. "Is it calmer now? Are people a little less active than they were a few months ago or about a year ago? Yes. But is it going to remain that way? We don't know. It is going to have ups and downs," he said.

Iranians are moving towards a closer relationship with the rest of the world, even against their own government. While the internet and social networking sites are helping people connect with each other and breaking social barriers inside Iran, it's also giving Iranians all over the world a connection with one another, and support for each other even from thousands of miles away.

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