By Jeanne Ongiyo
30th June marks World Social Media Day and on this day people take the chance to express how much social media has helped them pass important messages, make friends, quenched their thirst for fame or plainly rant as much as they possibly can. Whatever way you choose to look at it, it is obvious that social media has had an impact on our lives whether negative or positive. Jobs have been lost thanks to social media as opportunities as well were discovered from the same medium and as for relationships, let’s just say were it not for social media the world would not have know that true love is equivalent to a Toyota Land Cruiser V8 whose estimated worth is ten-million Kenya shillings.
Moving on swiftly as I express my views in this 11-seater means of public transportation , I would like to bring to your attention a tweet by Disaster Operations @NDOCKenya which states “Communication is vital during a disaster, and being a credible source of info, especially on social media, is important #SMDayKE”. The mere fact that government institutions find relevance in their work through the use of social media is a clear indication of the kind of huge following social media has in Kenya and in the world at large. We are therefore forced to ignore the number of times the same government has been at logger-heads with some media houses especially when some piece of information is brought to the limelight and they otherwise had the intention to conceal it. This was evident in recent times when perceived terror attacks were waged at a police post and though the government denied the claims that some law enforcement agents lost their lives, some non-governmental organizations partnered with media houses to expose what had happened in the interest of the general public.
Through social media people from all walks of life are able to engage in conversations and express their opinions. This can be related to typographic America, an era where according to Neil Postman in Amusing Ourselves to Death (1985) one was entitled to have an opinion if and only if they could read and write. These days, anyone can find their 15 seconds of fame by simply expressing their desire to marry Malia Obama (who I must mention is underage, therefore any reference to a marriage proposal would be taking advantage of a minor, just saying) or basically by making hilarious remarks of being paid in bananas when confronted by allegations of corruption. News on social media spreads like wild fire and soon these two examples became trending topics with all and sundry chipping in to express their views or just laugh out loud. No one is literally gagged while using social media and there is some degree of anonymity if the user so wishes to adapt this.
Quick question…by being too digitally social, have we become physically anti-social?
What happened to the days where using public transportation was an opportunity to actually make friends and discuss politics or football? What happened to story-telling sessions round a fireplace? Social media seems to have turned us into zombies who cannot go a minute without checking our phones or computers to satisfy our curiosity. Food these days tastes as good as it looks on Instagram and marriages can only last as long as your Facebook account is active with relatively ‘lovey-dovey’ status updates recording your daily experiences often accompanied by a couple of edited photos that made it through an intense short-listing exercise from thousands of other similar photos.
Humanity has literally been transformed to slaves of technology where we can only make decisions on what to wear based on comments or the number of hits we get from social media…which is a community of people whose population is diverse ranging from the know-it all’s, don’t cares, ‘angels and demons’ and some who basically live because they are alive.
As we celebrate this day that has paved the way to numerous citizen-journalists, aspiring models, up-coming deejays and some bloggers who seem to vent for a living, let us not miss the point that social media is a useful tool in terms of communication and its use should be used to promote peace and not illicit negative vibes. Ideally, social media does not create negativity, it just uncovers it. This is attributed by the fact that it is only a medium used to promote negativity and the outcome whether good or bad is not only linked to the perpetrator but social media is also dragged along. Let us be responsible when using social media and strive to promote only what builds us as individuals and as an online community. And with the authority vested in me as an avid user of social media I give you the power to post, tweet, like, comment and share… wish you a great Social Media Day!