Sultan Al Qassemi talks in Zayed University about new media

By Sana Husain Al Marzouqi

DUBAI – He is on TIME magazine’s list of the people with the best Twitter feeds. He is also listed as the sixth most influential profile in social networking sites by Grafdom – a digital media agency in the UAE. Indeed, Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi has proved to the whole world that a tweet every 45 seconds does make a change in the world.

Al Qassemi, an Emirati commentator in Arab affairs, gave a talk in Zayed University recently about the power of new media. About a hundred students and faculty members attended the talk, enthusiastically firing questions afterwards. He commented about the state of media in the UAE and the gulf, and shared his experience with social media.

“I thought something was wrong,” said Al Qassemi, commenting on the 1000 followers he got within 8 hours of tweeting every news item about the unrests that happened in the Arab world from the very beginning.

He only slept 90 minutes a night, and perhaps 30 minutes a day, when he was covering the Egyptian revolt through his tweets. Al Qassemi was tweeting so eagerly and frequently that he got a call from an old Egyptian friend asking him to stop tweeting about the revolt. “What you’re doing is wrong, you’re encouraging people!” he said to Al Qassemi. Yet, Al Qassemi chose not to stop.

Al Qassemi indicated the opportunity he had during that time. Mentioning his tweets about Mubarak’s speech, he said, “This person was speaking in Arabic, a language that I know.” He could translate the speeches minute by minute through Twitter.

He had the advantage of reporting the speeches instantly with more details than most news agencies would. “Do people want to know the news 49 minutes later or 49 seconds later?” he said, emphasizing the role of Twitter and social media.

Al Qassemi was so good at reporting news instantly that some people actually thought that he was some kind of a news agency, he said.  What made Al Qassemi’s tweets more interesting than CNN’s, he said, was that he would mention details that were not known. For example, if a city were mentioned to have protests, he would report it adding details about that city, like population and the distance between it and other major cities.

“I’ve been active and writing for seven years, but sometimes this one hour could really distinguish all the work you do.” With that, Al Qassemi continued to encourage the students to find that one thing they’re good at, that one opportunity that they could grasp to set them apart from the rest.


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