13th May, 2014
By Ufuoma Ogbe
Social media is the ‘new media’ that speed up conversations in a more interactive way that makes communication more effective and worthwhile. It is an online media that takes communication beyond the limitations of the traditional media, which most often delivers content but doesn’t permit readers, or as the case may be, viewers or listeners, to participate in the formation or development of the content. Ron Jones’ definition of social media seems quite apt, that it is, “a category of online media where people are talking, participating, sharing, networking, and bookmarking online.” Currently, there is an array of social media networks in the world, ranging from social sharing sites such as YouTube, Twitter to LinkedIn and Facebook among others. Facebook is the most popular social network in the world. It is also one of the two most frequented websites in the entire internet. It routinely trades places with Google as the most visited web service, and by the company’s estimates it now has over 800 million active users. That’s more regular visitors than the entire internet had in 2004. As of June 2012, Facebook has over 955 million active users, more than half of them using it on mobile devices. The social media commonly used in Nigeria include Facebook, 2go, yahoo messenger, BBM, Netlog, Badoo, Eskimo, Twitter, Nimbuzz amongst others. They all offer their users unrestricted access to chat with friends, relations and other acquaintances. Started from Orkut, followed by Twitter and Facebook, social networking websites have become the vogue across the world, especially among the youth. Just a few clicks and you can chat with your friends and family, sitting at a different corner of the globe.
Before the deregulation of the Nigerian telecommunication sector in 1999, fewer Nigerians had access to computers while the lack of sufficient technological infrastructure such as the Internet and mobile phones constrained communication within the society. However, with the deregulation of the telecommunication sector, social network spread like wide fire in Nigeria. Today, all classes of Nigerians now have unlimited access to the social media. The youth, however, remains the most prominent users of the social media. This, of course, is not surprising as the digital age is widely believed to belong to the youth.
No doubt, the phenomenon of the social media has, in no small measure, impacted positively on the development of the Nigeria youths and , indeed, Nigerians at large. For one, it has made the youths to become better informed and educated by being constantly abreast of global news and information. Also, it has provided a platform for unemployed youths to either be gainfully employed or become aware of job opportunities across the world. Aside this, the social media provides unlimited platform for genuine business transactions as it offers youth with business acumen the opportunity to promote their goods and services for a global market. Through this, many have been delivered from the shackles of abject poverty.
Similarly, it has also enhanced career and professional efficiency of the youths. Now, otherwise complex and complicated assignments could be accomplished within very little time framework and with unbelievable accuracy. Additionally, the social media has also offered the youth with a medium through which they could scrutinize the activities of those that are in government. Thus, the advent of the social media has increased the capacity of the youth to participate in governance. In a similar vein, social media assists in bringing to the open various societal ills. For instance, it is through the platform that the October 6, 2013 killing of some students of the University of Port Harcourt, Aluu, was exposed. The current ‘bring our girls back’ campaign is another instance where the youth has sufficiently relied on the platform of the social media to solve societal problems.
From the foregoing, it is quite evident that the social media has greatly influenced in the positive development of the Nigerian youth. Nevertheless, like it is in every sphere of life, the social media equally has negative influence on the youth, especially the unsuspecting ones. The obvious lack of security of the social media makes it dangerous to innocent youths. People have to sign up with these sites putting in their personal and sometimes professional information. As long as these details are safe, there is no threat in social networking with friends as well as strangers, you want to be friend with. But once your personal details like address, contact number, etc. get hacked by the unwanted strangers, you will be a soft target of these miscreants.
There is a great danger in getting close with strange people on social media sites. Many people unconsciously get started with strangers with the intention of having a casual relationship but gradually they find out that they become so close to these people. As time goes on they become so intimate forgetting that the heart of men is desperately wicked (apology to the holy scriptures). With time, they so much trust them that they reveal their deepest secrets to them while the so called ‘friends’ turn back to pay them with evil. Through this way, many have been defrauded while others have lost their lives. The case of the late Cynthia Osokogwu is still fresh in our memories.
As previously illustrated, the social media offers unlimited possibilities for the Nigerian youth. However, in view of its obvious shortcomings, some of which have been discussed above, it is important for governments, NGOs, youths based organisations and other relevant stakeholders to regularly enlighten the youth on the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of the social media. This is essential if the youth are to properly harness the positive aspects of the social media for personal development. Perhaps, more importantly, the youth should take responsibility on how to use the social media in a positive light. They should shun every negative tendency that the platform could provide in order not to become tools for societal disintegration.
•Ogbe is of the Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.