SOCIAL MEDIA: The good, The bad and The ugly
Social media is a group of internet based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of web and that allow the re-creation and exchange of user generated content (Andreas Kaplan,2010). Ever since the beginning of social networking, sites like facebook, instagram, twitter, myspace, whatsapp, 2go, youtube among others have really proven their essence and worthiness among the community particularly our youths. It has become a means of communication between people separated by a large distance and because of this, has made communication a lot easier. Businesses have also grown because one is able to communicate with a large number of people that are not even at your reach. This has made several people divulge into the world of online business. Social networking sites allow you to connect with just about anybody like your neigbours, co-workers, friends, family, business partners and the community at large. In essence, social media has promoted business, communication and has eased life itself.
COMMUNICATION: social networking is an avenue for information dissemination. Many social networking sites are a means of sending information to people through pictures or written texts. Companies tend to advertise their products online because of the vast number of people operating the internet. These days, its even faster than the tv set because 70% of the people spend more time online than sitting in front of their tv. Its also a means of connecting with lost friends, an example of this is the most popular network in the world, Facebook, which is one of the two most visited sites in the world. Facebook has over 100 million active users around the globe in which more than half of them use it on their mobile. You can search for anybody on the site just by knowing their names or e-mail addreses. I mean, over 15 years ago, there was nothing like e-mail, people had to literarilly wait to hear from each other through letters. Social media has made a great impact in my life in more ways than one, apart from spying on people (which I do most of the time) I have been able to communicate with people, my old friends, course mates, that I cant even point out what is going on in their life at the moment, my siblings, my uncle in istanbul (lol), even my parents (who just adopted internet services late) and my bestie or boo (you choose). Believe it or not social media has aided inter-state communications and has made us closer with people from distant or neighbouring countries. We live in an open world thanks to the internet and we can contact just about anyone around the world with just a few keystrokes, internet has paved a new way of interaction and businesses whereby customers can tell brands exactly what they want and with this information they are able to tailor their products to more appeal.
SHARING: one major part of social networking is the ability to share with a large number of people, from videos to old school photos and so on. You are able to share with people all over the world, anybody in your circle of friends or your family members. A man on a trip to another country can watch his baby’s first steps, its possible to hold online conferences where you chat live with your co-workers abroad or even watch your little bros wedding ceremony. We get to see pictures of our friends and loved ones that are far away from us and even those that live in our lives. Its like being a part of a person’s life even though distance keeps you apart.
AWARENESS/CAMPAIGNS: during the last 2015 general elections, social media really proved its worthiness. Apart from door to door campaign and pasting of posters a lot of campaigns and awareness spread all over the internet like wide fire. It became the heart of the election itself. It was like a competition between parties, as if the party with the most tweets will win. Before the election, many politicians and political parties jumped on the social media band wagon, good for them, they were able to interact with Nigerians. Also, after the election social networks became the bearer of good news, parties delegated people who posted the number of votes they won or lost in each states. Also, some NGOs have one or two pages on the social media like facebook and twitter where they interact with people and post pictures of their humanitarian services. Some artistes have what is called a Fan page. Here they inform the public and their fans about the date they are dropping their albums, some post links of songs or videos recently mastered. Social networking sites are a cost effective means of spreading the word. The current ‘Bring back our girls’ campaign is able to circulate nationwide and worldwide through this platform.
EDUCATION: instead of buying the whole book, you can download a page or two from the internet. Certfication, safety courses and other relevant courses can be done on the internet. You literarilly pay your school fees online and register online, you even attend lectures and write exams online. You can sit down comfortably in front of your computer in your living room here in Nigeria and attend lectures in India through the internet. Social media sites have also made it possible for us to meet people we might not have been able to meet outside these forums, we get to share ideas beyond our geographical boundaries (like right now), it reduces the cost of travelling or transportation, especially when you are going to get somethings, you can just order them online. Sites like Jumia, Konga, kaymu or OLX have made this possible. By combining social media and other media, you can reach more people for the purpose of business, education, health etcetera. With one click, you become educated, with one click you become empowered, with one click you become loved.
EMPOWERMENT: The most prominent users of social networkig sites are the youths. The youths are the major players in this sector as we have been tagged as the digital age. Social media has enhanced carrer and professional efficiency of the youths. It serves as a medium through which we youths can scrutinize the activities of those that run our government, it has also enhanced our capacity to participate in governance. It has encouraged unlimited responsibilities and has greatly influenced the positive development of the Nigerain youths. It has made us better informed and well educated by being constantly abreast of global news. We are now able to participate in major areas of the society by interacting with like-minded individuals and people all over the world. It has also created a platform for the unemployed youths to be either gainfully employed or become aware of job opportunities all over the country. It has also made us aware of the qualifications we must have to get a particular job and where that certificated is gotten. To be honest, we youths are now part of the solution and far from the problem. Having looked at these good impacts its only fair to redress the balance, after all, every ying has its yang.
THE BAD: The obvious lack of security on social media is a risk to us all especially to businees entities. Its not all the time that online business is safe, there are people out there who spend quality time on the internet just looking for ways to dupe people or foreign investors. An example of such case is the internet fraud, commonly known as ‘Yahoo Yahoo’. Nigerian youths have found interests in duping unsuspecting white men and women by posing as lovers or distant relatives. They promise to sell goods to them but ask for money first, and like someone under hypnosis the white people pay for goods they havent even seen, after that the Nigerian guy dumps then and move to the next victim. Internet fraud is very rampant in this part of the world and nothing can be done to stop it. Online bankers and business men have been duped of their hard earned money. In the US, approximately 1 billion dollars have been illegaly removed through debit and credit cards. Also, social media can limit ones social life, I mean you get to see places you have never been to in pictures, and once you are doing that, you are contented. It has allowed us hide behind screens and limit our social interactions. You also make friends easily without even putting concious effort in building the relationship. Some people have over 3000 friends on facebook and 10,000 followers on instagram where as they are loners in the real world. They are actually friendless. Socail mediahas also contibuted to a decrease in productivity such that many companies have blocked social networking sites on their office internet because workers become distracted more often than not spending time on the network rather than focusing on work. Social media is occupying the times we spend outside with friends. It’s a habit now that every youth you see has their phone glued to their hands even during social gatherings. Its obvious they are facebooking or tweeting away their time or checking out hot photos on instagram. We cant enjoy the world around us for an hour or two without retreating back into that safe little digital box. It can also limit your level of productivity at work. Am guilty of this too, several times during work am checking up a chat that just popped up on my notifications bar and I become carried away until a colleague nudges me back to life. Or am checking gossip blogs to get the latest gist on a celeb. Social media is changing how we communicate, interact or socialize in our daily lives, it has affected our self expression, friendship, isolation and even our sense of humanity and has brought about online harassment and cyber bullying. Social media can be abused by its users, we invade on peoples privacy ( I talked about spying on my friends few paragraphs ago) its not fair to discuss anyone on any of these platforms without their consent. Many introverts and socially reclusive users place too much emphasis on virtual interaction and ignore the real world. Few years back, on twitter, there were several cases of impersonation. People use pictures of pretty girls just to gain followers alone or to promote online dating or collect a hot girl’s phone contact, terribly wrong! Family ties can aslo weaken as people spend more time making new ‘friends’ online.
THE UGLY: the abuse of social networking sites is very rampant in Nigeria and worldwide. According to Ahmed Olayinka Sule, Nigeria is suffering from what is called ‘technology Masturbation Syndrome’ that is the use of digital technology to stimulate the release of one’s innermost thoughts, values and desires. He further explained that digital technlogy has enabled Nigerians release their bad intentions which has been building up for a long time. Some people have desires supressed in their sub-concious that they have no way of showing due to the societal structure at that time and the presence of limited available channels but ever since the social networking sites surfaced, these desires have started to emerge. The emergence of digital revolution has now provided Nigerians with a medium to release these innermost thoughts, values and desires, a thing previously unimagined has now become a daily occurrence due to the availability of social media. An example of this is the incident that happened a few years back, a lady was invited to lagos by some friends she met on one of these platforms. They claimed that they were business men and wanted to sell her some goods, her body was later discovered in an hotel where she supposedly had met them, police investigations later revealed that she was raped and buchered. Some people even go to the lenght of dating someone on social media and have no clue whether the person is married or not. In the face of danger, when someone is being maimed, raped or killied, people prefer to take pictures and post it on the net rather than calling for help just because they want to become the first to know. Social media has made us lose our dignity and our regard for privacy and also our sense. In 2012 during the Dana air crash people rushed there to to take pictures rather than save the victims, we have lost our senses indeed!
What can we do to stop these? A cyber expert suggested that Nigerians need a lot of capacity building especially in the area of Information Technology. If someone is hacking a site, personnel should be able to find out and trace the hacking back to its origin. Cybercrime can easily be tackled if the right training is given to personnel or workers of the cybercrime detection unit. Against all odds, social media can be used to accomplish great things if its abuse is very limited. In conclusion, social media has had its positive and negative impact on our society, its now up to us to limit our daily visits and choose wisely what we wish to post and how close we want to be with friends, also we must exercise caution and ensure that we do not fall victim to online dangers.