The Gallup Institute recently conducted a poll showing that among people between the ages of 18 and 34, there is the highest opposition to Israel’s invasion of the Gaza Strip. These people, born from 1989 onwards are the same as those who have been exposed to computers, the Internet, and social networks since childhood, having gained a large portion of their life experiences from these ways. Usually, some of those born in 1989 and later are Generation Y and some of them are Generation Z. Why are these two generations different from the previous generations in their perceptions of life and their judgments?
One of the characteristics of generations Y and Z is that the information space in which they breathe is distinct compared to the information space of earlier generations. This generation often does not get their information through TV news and mainstream channels, but their main source is social networks. Naturally, social networks are a space that is dominated by diversity and pluralism, and in which there are diverse and conflicting views on many issues. The fact that Generation Y and Z judge the Palestinian issue differently from the previous generations and condemn Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip stems from this issue.
Gallup’s survey reveals that the generations that have been exposed to communication technology since childhood are different and think differently about various global issues. The specialty of information technology is that it has conquered the whole world with no country left out of its sphere of activity. Just as the United States and Japan are exposed to the technology, Afghanistan is also affected by it advertently or inadvertently and is not immune to its profound effects.
Currently, social networks, which are playing a great and undeniable role in various fields of life due to the parasite of technology, have changed the mentality and worldview of people, consequently leaving a lasting impact on their behavior and performance. Therefore, it is impossible to ignore the role of social networks to analyze political and cultural currents in a country. However, it cannot be ignored that social networks are like a double-edged sword that, along with its advantages and virtues, can also have destructive consequences.
In general, the dominant space in social networks is the space of diversity and plurality, however, sometimes radical groups have been able to take advantage of it to promote thoughts and ideas or to unify their forces. During the fall of Kabul to the Taliban, this group was able to use social networks for propaganda and weakening the opposition forces. When people who joined Islamic States-Khorasan (ISIS-K) in Afghanistan or other countries talk about the process of joining this group, it turns out that they were attracted to this terrorist group through social networks. This reveals that social networks are vital because they promote diversity and plurality of narratives and perspectives, but because it is a platform that fundamentalist groups may use for recruitment, it is dangerous and also harmful.
In Afghanistan, the use of social networks is common with a large part of the people being intellectually nourished through these networks. Therefore, different political and intellectual groups try to be present and operate in this space. The Taliban have also realized the importance of social networks and frequently try to spread their propaganda to the general public through cyberspace. This group has YouTubers who have been assigned to whitewash the Taliban report on the genuine or imaginary achievements of this group and make an all-out effort to condemn the republic system and the government officials of the republican era. The Taliban have prospered to a large extent in conquering cyberspace.
One of the reasons for this is that the presence of Taliban opponents in social networks has decreased following the fall of the republic system and many users have become silent due to the fear of being punished by the Taliban. This issue has provided the Taliban with further opportunities to perform more than before. The Taliban strictly monitors the activities of users in cyberspace and if someone dares to write something against the aspiration of the Taliban, the intelligence of the Taliban rapidly intervenes and arrests that person. Taliban use social networks to build cases against opponents. On numerous occasions, it has happened that the Taliban group arrested individuals for writing critical comments and subjected them to horrific torture. Due to the atmosphere of intimidation created by the Taliban, even those users who live abroad are reluctant to write opinions against the Taliban for various reasons, and many of them prefer not to write anything against the Taliban.
Due to the frequent use of social networks by extremist groups to promote their creed and profession, some observers believe that platforms such as Facebook, X, and Telegram should not be provided to radical groups. They suggest that the owners of these platforms should adopt policies so that those who are hostile to diversity and pluralism and who promote and spread violent ideas will not have a chance to spread their thoughts on these platforms. Pluralism is good as long as it does not turn into its opposite and does not allow the enemies of diversity and plurality to crush and oppress others. Meanwhile, several people believe that the thoughts and views of individuals and groups should not be removed and censored because they contradict our thoughts. They add that dictators and totalitarian systems suppress opposing opinions and ideas under the name of incompatibility with national interests and collective opinions. There is still no theoretical consensus on how to deal with the ideas and beliefs of radical religious or national and racial groups. Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Meta, favors censorship and the removal of certain views, while Elon Musk strongly believes that the publication and distribution of different views and ideas bind him.