In 2011, a few days after yet another major protest in Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, Sana (not her real name) and I sat in a coffee shop close to the square where so much had happened in a few months.
In the immediate aftermath of Hosni Mubarak’s resignation, the protesters’ spirit and optimism seemed to shine on everything.
Sana came from a well-off Egyptian family that, like many, had maintained a fiercely apolitical stance before the revolution.
She was a talented young woman who went to one of Egypt’s best universities, spoke English very well, and, like many of her peers, had a view of the world beyond that of the older generation that still ruled Egypt and the timid elders who feared Mubarak’s repressive regime.
She told me about feeling trapped and about frustration with her family and social circle, all of whom rebuked her attempts at even mild discussions of Egyptian politics.
But now, digital technologies provide multiple avenues for people to find like-minded others and to signal their beliefs to one another.