The Cyprus nation is largely quiet and happy, that was until a few weeks ago when the economy joined the infamous list of the “Melted Few”. This melt down, fueled by an oversize banking sector and contagion from the Greek economy and a whole lot more has taken its toll on the people of Cyprus. The tension and uncertainty is worse than the United States Retirement Crisis.
While I could feed you about the why and how, that’s not what I want to focus on. We are interested in the people element of the crisis: why isn’t the social media stark raving mad about what is happening. As late as last weekend, the government was considering dipping into people’s savings in order to raise funds for its bailout package. If you think of it, it is not really different from raising tax or cutting spending on crucial social services; it’s the psychological effect of the government touching your savings that was so repulsive1.
If the news of the crisis caused a storm, this should have made the social media circles get into a frenzy, right? Wrong! While Cypriots reacted angrily on twitter2, it seemed like the rest of the world was unperturbed. They were more content tweeting about #Scandal and #WhyISmile than realizing the gravity of the precedent this would send. Even the Kenya vs Nigeria “tweef” made it to BBC and Al Jazeera after #SomeoneTellNigeria trended throughout the weekend. The only exception was the buzz among stock traders who ate up the news for obvious reasons.
If Obama told America that he would take 2% of their savings, he would trend in the next 2 minutes, and not in a good way. Yet Cypriots woke up to the news of 10% of their savings would go. Over 10 hours later, people around the world still don’t know and I bet 10 days later too.
In a society that touts itself for social justice, we sure don’t know what is important. The Arab Spring, Israel’s cyber bullying, Operation Occupy, and so many other events that rocked the world received apt social media attention. So the question is: why isn’t Cyprus trending?
One plausible reason is that Cyprus is a small country. Compared to the US’s 161 million Facebook users, Cyprus’ 585,000 is but a drop in the ocean. Even South Africa with a population penetration of 11% has 5 million users on Facebook alone3. The statistics for twitter are expectedly significantly less.
During the Arab Spring, there were about 12 million users on Facebook and around 350,000 twitter users from the 6 countries affected4. This is 24 times greater than the Cypriots have. While they were protesting on the streets, the world was kept up to date with live pictures and memes on social media. The world had to take notice as the social media world blew up with graphic reports. With the Cyprus case, they don’t just seem to have the numbers to get their anger out there as effectively.
Another reason might be that we are tired of this hopeless economic news. #ImSoUsedToHearing about financial problems, I can’t take it anymore (yes, this did also trend around 21-22nd March!). The masses may have become numb after the US, then the world, then Ireland, Poland, Greece and now Cyprus has joined the list. This may even explain why US citizens didn’t react to the negative elements of the fiscal legislation cliff that was noted by David Ramsey’s Utah EPL, Ryan Smith. We are either too busy putting out our own fires or too numb to pay attention to more bad news.
Social media frenzy is all about interest, and very few seem bothered by these stories anymore. Besides, not many in the world truly understand the enormous implications of this “small” island’s misfortunes. Few people know that the contagion effect may come knocking at their door. If they did, they just might pay more attention to the saga.
The Cyprus case should be a social media discussion, but the muted conversation seems to bear the signs of an uncomfortable silence while others are not bothered or aware. Even Matt Quigley3 predicts that the major international markets can move on without too much problem (unless you are a Russian off-shore fund manager). As long as their corner of the world is safe, Cyprus is on their own.