How Word of Mubarak's Resignation Spread on Social Media


On February 11, the world watched as Hosni Mubarak was tossed from power after 30 years running Egypt at about 11:00 a.m. Eastern. Naturally, the legions glued to their computers wanted to share the news.

Here, we see data from ShareThis, a company that makes those little icons that sit above posts like this on one million websites. They tracked hour-by-hour sharing via e-mail, Twitter and Facebook. What's interesting here is that the lines don't look as much like each other as you might think.

While the Twitter and Facebook shares have the same rough shape, the details are interesting. Twitter sharing is much spikier, possibly driven by subevents in the overall narrative. And during the key hour in which Mubarak resigned, Twitter and Facebook sharing came very close to intersecting. Turning to the Facebook graph, you realize how big a beast the site really is. Its pattern conforms roughly to U.S. web traffic as a whole, peaking around 1:00 p.m.

But perhaps the most interesting data was that related to e-mail. It's not close to the volume of the social media services (though ShareThis probably doesn't capture all e-mail shares), but it actually peaked in the run-up to resignation and then steadily fell off.

Here are a few of the key moments from that day to refresh your memory:

  • 9:40 am: Egyptian state television says an urgent statement is upcoming
  • 10:15 am: The head of Mubarak's party resigns
  • 11:05 am: Mubarak steps down
  • 12:30 pm: Vice President Joe Biden delivers a speech on Egypt
  • 3:15 pm: President Obama talks about Egypt