The emerging thread

July 23, 2023

Unravelling the impact of Threads on Pakistan’s Social Media Scene

The emerging thread


o you know the fastest way to get the news out in this era? Tweeting like a bird. These chirping birds reach farther and wider than news platforms. Back in the days of plain old cable, without the advent of social media, one would have to wait for a news channel to broadcast news to know what was happening, sometimes hours after the actual event/activity – even slower used to be the days where print media ruled. The news was slow but firm. From waiting days to seconds, tweeting changed the landscape of ‘broadcasting’ forever.

People always talk about ‘the good old days’ and how life’s become so fast; they’d do anything to slow it down. Luckily (sarcasm if it wasn’t obvious), Pakistan sometimes takes us back to those ‘good old days.’ Did you think having access to the nuclear codes was dangerous? The ruling elite possesses a more damaging, if not deadlier, button, shutting down social media with the flick of a switch. Just like that, we teleport the whole country back twenty years. ‘Good old days’ don’t feel that good anymore now. Especially not when it’s forced and done to muzzle the voices of the masses.

While social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook have given a voice to the masses and created an equal platform for all, such democracies of voices can be frightening for regimes used to the monopoly of the narrative. What happens when they decide to press the shutdown button, leaving thousands of Twitter birds silenced overnight? The impact is far more damaging than one might initially perceive.

Taha Memon, the CEO of Super Conductor and Dawat, emphasises this by saying, “Twitter is a very impactful source of information for many people, and definitely, for Pakistan; we need as much information as possible in this new tech space.”

Pakistan has seen a surge in digital activism in a digitally transformed world. Issues from climate change to gender inequality are frequently discussed on these platforms, highlighting the most pertinent societal problems. But with the looming threat of shutdowns, a potential obstacle exists to this burgeoning social transformation. Not only would a large-scale shutdown impact the general discourse, but it could also potentially halt ongoing movements, delaying or obstructing justice and solutions.

Twitter has been a boon for journalists, allowing them to report in real time. Sonya Rehman, a journalist writing for Forbes and the Editor-in-Chief for Machine Lab Ventures, backs this claim by stating, “Twitter has forever marked its presence as a social media platform that gave birth to citizen journalism. It has empowered ordinary citizens to disseminate news and provide real-time coverage of events, climate disasters, and socio-political issues.” A shutdown wouldn’t merely silence them; it would create a domino effect, where the masses would be kept in the dark about ongoing issues, thus potentially promoting misinformation and ignorance.

Likewise, for businesses and entrepreneurs, Twitter has served as a launchpad for their products and ideas. A shutdown would not just limit their growth potential, but it could also hamper the digital economy and discourage innovation. In an era where ideas are currency, Taha asserts, ‘Twitter teaches you AI and tech; for the youth of Pakistan, we need to keep the freedom of media as free as possible so they can take advantage, connect with people and network.’

The influence of social media shutdowns isn’t just limited to internal impacts. It could lead to negative perceptions about the country’s commitment to freedom of speech and digital rights on the international stage. In the long run, this could harm foreign relations, investments, and Pakistan’s standing in the global community.

The potential Twitter limitation by Pakistani authorities is more than just a threat to freedom of speech. It’s an inhibitor to social change, a business roadblock, a gag order on journalism, and a possible international relations nightmare. It’s a tug on the wings of those Twitter birds, stunting their ability to reach out, connect, and empower.

While there’s no denying that social media comes with its own challenges, navigating them with nuance and care is essential. Resorting to draconian measures like complete shutdowns risks pushing Pakistan back to a pre-digital age, effectively clipping the wings of progress. The balance lies in developing a robust digital policy that respects individual rights while ensuring the health and integrity of public discourse.

As the story unfolds, a new bird enters the social media nest. Fluttering its wings in a bold challenge to Twitter, Instagram’s Threads has appeared on the scene. Initially considered a bit player, Threads has become a force to be reckoned with. Its introduction is causing Twitterati to reconsider their loyalty and has the potential to shift the tectonic plates of the social media landscape. Reflecting on this shift, Memon emphasises, ‘We’re transitioning into a creator’s economy, and individuals must embrace platforms like Threads to share knowledge and join this content creation movement. If we, as a nation, generate high-quality content, it could herald a golden era for social media in Pakistan.”

Threads’ charm lies in its simplicity and familiarity. As an offshoot of Instagram, it already feels like home to its one billion+ user base, reaching the fastest 100 million users in just five days of its launch. It takes the winning formula of Twitter’s conciseness and speed, blends it with Instagram’s visual prowess, and presents a potent concoction that’s hard to resist. The application serves as a public platform for discussions, quick updates, and instant sharing, making it a direct competitor to Twitter.

As the sun sometimes sets on the horizon of the social media landscape here, one can’t help but imagine these Twitter birds taking refuge in the Threads spindle, chirping and tweeting in a new rhythm. The echoes of their tweets, or should we say ‘threads,’ resonate in a different melody, an ode to change and evolution.

The writer is an ex-serviceman and a freelancer. He can be reached at

The emerging thread