Social media has become an undeniable force in the world today, giving people better opportunities to spread their talents and promising projects. Some of them have attained relative fame, with thousands of followers on online channels like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, which sometimes leads to better professional offers for them, yet others are still trying to capture attentions.
Daily News Egypt interviewed six young people to tell their stories and experiences with social media and reveal how they plan to reach what they have always have dreamed of. Mohamed Nasser is a prominent cartoonist, who said he started illustrating cartoons in high school to “express his suffering with studying.” He was lucky with audiences of his colleagues; very limited supporters at that time, as he described.
“My cartoons had been well received by my colleagues. After I went to university, the impact got wider, with a larger number of followers, but still [relatively] limited. Then I decided to turn to social media, posting my work there. Few people followed me until it got larger,” said the engineering student at Alexandria University.
However, things unexpectedly changed; Nasser’s cartoons went viral, shared and circulated by thousands of users. “I didn’t expect this intensive interaction. I am lucky for all those followers and their feedback. Thanks to that, I received freelance offers and accepted some of them”, noted the 23-year-old cartoonist.
The Alexandrian future engineer hopes to mix painting with his major, computer engineering, saying “I feel that I can do that. I adore painting and can’t say I don’t like my studies too. I am looking to improve my skills in game developing”.
Later on, Nasser began using his cartoons to express mixed feelings of depression and about relationships. He joined some professional courses in graphic design, character illustration, and cartooning to enhance his talent. Moreover, he has ambitious plans to issue his own worldwide comic series in the future, with big dreams he wishes to achieve in his career.
Nasser’s cartoons were never published on websites or in print. “I don’t know if I can take it to the commercial market, as I always paint and illustrate what I feel or believe in,” he noted.
Fortunately, the internet now allows people to connect easily, sharing their initial experiments with larger audiences. Social media also helped Yara
Alieldien. She became a member of “Tegy nelwnha” (Let’s colour it) campaign, which painted art and literature figures such as Nobel prize recipient Naguib Mahfouz and the internationally renowned Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum on Opera metro station walls, aiming to “spread street art among all segments of the population, backed by Moubdioun (Innovators) association, headed by Zainab Mohamed.
“Zainab saw my painting on my Facebook page, and then she asked me to join them,” Alieldien told DNE, adding that she started publishing her work three years ago.
The 18-year-old painter, a first-year student at the Faculty of Fine Arts at Helwan University, found the path to her dream through social media. She published her paintings on her own Facebook page and groups related to young painters, got some good feedback, and criticism, which helped her improve her talent.
A while later, she feels quite confident. “I am always working on improving my paintings. In late 2016, my work went viral,” she noted.
Alieldien also added that thanks to social media, international media outlets noticed her work in the Opera metro station, saying “BBC and other international media wrote about us. Social media is now the fastest way of communicating with people. She receives, from time to time, orders to paint portraits, but she rarely accepts them. “I feel that I still need much more time to take this professional step.”
When the 25 January revolution broke out in 2011, many young people got passionate about photography, especially the kind that documents street and political events. Ahmed Gaber found himself interested in this field nearly five years ago. He bought a camera and started his journey. “I kept saving money to buy my own camera, especially when many people turning to photography, I wanted to take my chance too,” Gaber said.
Gaber, 21 years old, is a senior student at the Faculty of Arts at Alexandria University. He used his account on Instagram to publish his own photographs, saying he now has more than 10,000 followers. “Actually, it doesn’t matter how many people follow you. What matters the most is the people who appreciate the photo itself, [people] with an artistic eye,” Gaber noted.
He now does some freelance work, including wedding and ceremony photography. He wants to take his chance in the photojournalism field, but according to him, there is no longer journalism in Egypt. “I hope I can go abroad to follow my goals and dreams,” he said. However, he gets most of his experience on the streets. “This is the best practice, better than any courses or training. I am also familiar with global photographers.”
It is not just photography that has attracted young people in the past seven years. Aly Galal, when he was just 16 years old, got involved in political comics, as many artists did at that time, “Following the 25 January revolution, political events encouraged us to express our opinions. I did this in my own way by illustrating comics,” said Galal.
The 23-year-old young comic artist would post comics tackling political issues. “At first, they got some interaction. But it took years to achieve a noticeable impact,” noted Galal. He added that the impact was “slow,” however, he tried to send his work to local newspapers and online platforms. He only received a response from Al-Shorouk newspaper, where he worked.
He is now studying graphic design and media arts at Modern Sciences and Arts University and publishes his paintings and comics only on social media. He once participated in Cairo Comix Festival with a comicbook called “Mangaha” in association with another cartoonist named Sherif Adel.
After years of work, despair and frustration crept up on him. “I am no longer illustrating on politics. I left all this because despair dominated our lives and feelings. I post comics on naïve and simple things. They don’t tackle any critical issues and aren’t related to any activism”.
He looks forward to enhancing his skills in the animation field, he already started some freelance work with the website Yaoota!, saying “I get so passionate about animation. It’s my next step”. Galal concluded that social media helped him but “not that much,” as he isn’t following up with trends. “I do respect trendy work, but some artists can’t have a great impact because their works aren’t trendy.”
With more than 2.2 billion monthly active users on the social media giant Facebook, it has become the most desired destination for video producers, short movies directors, and sometimes even filmmakers, as video production has flourished in the past several years, with the ability to experiment on online platforms.
Away from individual experiences, there is a promising initiative that produces videos, mini documentaries, and short movies called “Egyptian Vibes,” started on Facebook by two young women and a man. Laila Kamal, one of the members, said, “our purpose is to spread a positive mood among Egyptian youth, telling them ‘you are not alone in your struggling,’ whether it is financial, social, or related to their wellbeing. We show you samples of people who were able to overcome their challenges and difficulties, reaching a better life.”
As written in their Facebook page bio, Egyptian Vibes is a project of “demonstrated feelings, memories, stories, and moments. We make short videos to let people speak their own minds and hearts, revive chapters of their lives to once more taste their happiest moments, celebrate their victory over challenges, and to inspire others to value their own journeys in life.”
“We launched our project in May 2017, starting with short videos that were well received by users after a few months. We got encouraging feedback and useful comments on the quality of the productions,” Kamal said. She, with Nermeen Hazem, worked on the pre-production stage, which includes writing, preparing questions, coming up with ideas, and finding inspiring stories, while Hussam Hamed, a filmmaker, proceeded with video production.
They want to help young people, who cannot find exposure, to be shown in their videos, offering them the opportunity to talk about their projects and businesses. Most importantly, they seek to improve their productions’ quality and content, planning to produce documentaries and short films. “We already started shooting our first short movie, as unfortunately, it was not accepted into any festivals, so we are going to post it on Facebook. Anyway, it’s where we came from,” Kamal said.
The project is self-financed. They usually rent a camera to shoot on the streets or in agreed locations. However, they decided to stop for a while. “We want to improve our work further,” Kamal explained, adding that they “have a message; a better way to spread it is though social media.”
Meanwhile, Ashraf Hamdi, a filmmaker, actor, and script writer, has a success story to share. Thanks to social media, his short films and videos have gained widespread attention, giving him bigger chances in his career as an advertising director to work with big and international brands. “I start to shoot short movies and videos and posting them on Facebook. I was already well-known as an actor, but this helped me to work with brands such as Samsung and Huawei,” Hamdi said.
The burgeoning director acted in the 2016 film “Ishtibak” (Clash), directed by Mohamed Diab. He began his career in acting in 2007, co-writing scripts with Egyptian scriptwriter Mohamed Hefzy and others. But as he became more involved in the advertising field, he felt like he needed an “outlet” to make something he is passionate more about, so he started his own project through Facebook, “Voice Note,” producing “short videos that are not traditional, away from clients’ requirement,” he pointed out.
“A project where sincere voice notes [are] told by tortured souls,” the bio of the project reads. “I turn to that to produce short movies that are poetic, reaching the Egyptian and Arab audience,” he noted, adding that his short films have garnered impressive engagement, hitting more than one million views, as well as thousands of shares and comments.
Ashraf advises young filmmakers to start from social media, as it helped him a lot. He is now working on his first feature film. “I am looking forward to making movies that will be internationally and locally well received, gain the recognition of critics and audience, and be screened at prestigious festivals,” he said.