NIGERIAN POLITICS IN THE AGE OF SOCIAL MEDIA: OPPORTUNITIES AND PERILS
Social media is a computer-based technology that facilitates the sharing of ideas and information and the building of virtual networks and communities. By design, social media is internet based and offers users easy electronic communication of personal information and other content, such as videos and photos. Users engage with social media via computer, tablet or smartphone via web-based software or web application, often utilizing it for messaging.
Social media originated as a tool that people used to interact with friends and family but was later adopted by businesses that wanted to take advantage of a popular new communication method to reach out to customers. The power of social media is the ability to connect and share information with anyone on Earth (or multitudes of people) as long as they also use social media.
In the past few years, social media have shown a rapid growth of user counts and have been object of scientiﬁc analysis (Wigand et al. 2010; McAfee2006). For example, more than 800 million people worldwide are members of the Facebook network (Facebook 2011) while Twitter counts more than 200 million accounts in total (HuffPost Tech 2011). This mainstream adoption of social media applications has changed the physics of information diffusion. Until a few years ago, the major barrier for someone who wanted a piece of information to spread through a community was the cost of the technical infrastructure required to reach a large number of people. Today, with widespread access to the Internet, this bottleneck has largely been removed. In this context, personal publishing modalities such as social network sites (SNS), microblogging, and weblogs have become prevalent (Kaplan and Haenlein 2010). The process by which people locate, organize, and coordinate groups of individuals with similar interests, the number and nature of information and news sources available, and the ability to solicit and share opinions and ideas across various topics have all undergone dramatic change with the rise of social media.
NIGERIAN POLITICS IN THE AGE OF SOCIAL MEDIA
The social media, a platform for social interaction among people in which they create, share or exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks has radically altered the way we live and interact. Anchored on mobile and web-based technologies to create highly interactive platforms through which individuals and communities share, co-create, discuss, and modify user-generated content, it is indeed revolutionary. However, the issue with social media is that most people do not know how and where to draw the line.
It is not only about personal conducts; the social media is also changing the dynamics of politics and governance. With its overwhelming ability to connect the world through personalised devices, the social media has changed the way we see and understand the character of individuals and leaders. All over the world, individuals, leaders and their associates now maintain social media accounts, bypassing the orthodoxy of the traditional media and its commendable gatekeeping role.
Who could ever imagine that a time would come that the president of the US would take to Twitter to directly comment on live TV shows and ratings, insult journalists using crude language, or insult women by saying blood is oozing out from their wherever? Even dictators who do not pretend they have regard for their people, such direct attacks are incomprehensible.
When the fax machine came on stream in the mid-70s, it was hailed as the latest in a long line of “technologies of freedom” which, by making point-to-point and group-to-group communication through word and image feasible and affordable, has dealt the censor a severe blow on the way to ending his or her creepy occupation.
Nigerian politics in the age of social media by the renowned indian journalist shaili chopra is an attempt to throw light on the increasing use of social media platforms to discuss politics. According to the author, political parties are utilising social media like facebook and twitter to promote their ideologies. Through the big connect: politics in the age of social media, she points out that election campaigns and propaganda have now been shifted to cyberspace. By listing out various facts and figures, she says that while such campaigns cannot be directly translated into a vote, the influence of social media cannot be denied. The book is a result of the author’s extensive research on the latest social media trends and patterns. Shaili has also ensured that the book targets the youth of the country, who forms the major proportion of social media users. The book can be regarded as an unbiased account and analysis, of the influence of social networking in indian politics. The comparative study of obama’s election campaign of 2008 and 2012 has also been included in the book, making it an authentic account to explain the affiliation between social media and politics. The book was published in 2014 by random house india, and is available as paperback. Key features: the book was widely discussed by both media and public alike, hugely owing to its impartial analytical pattern. A large number of facts and figures are also included in the book to prove the author’s point.
The power of information technology was again splendidly displayed this past week as millions in some 800 locations across the world marched in solidarity with American students spearheading protests against the gun violence that has turned their schools and streets and other social spaces into killing fields.
The center-left Democratic Party took just 18.7 percent of the vote and its leader, former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, is set to quit. In the age of television, the three-term former prime minister and one-time media mogul Silvio Berlusconi, who resembles Donald Trump in so many ways, was the politician to beat. He still owns several influential television channels but with the Internet ascendant, his centre-right Forza Italia limped through the race with just 14 percent of the vote.
The League and Five Star Movement have the numbers to govern, but they will not find it easy to put together a government. Months of horse trading lie ahead. Even for Italy the near future will be nothing familiar.
There was little scrutiny of political advertising in newspapers and on television. The content was reckless, inaccurate and irresponsible. In terms of the advertising, it was easy to know which side the media were on, whether for the ruling party or the opposition. Ordinarily that should not be the case. They should be objective. In that regard, the media came short of performing professionally.
In terms of comprehensive coverage, I think the media did well. They covered the campaigns, the issues, the personalities. They did a good job.
But I think this election was decided, dominated and directed by social media. The power of social media came out for this country. Social media played a central role as a watchdog in keeping the integrity of the process. Within minutes of votes being counted at a polling unit, the results were all over social media. Ordinary people with Excel sheets were doing tallies. At the end of the day when it was announced officially, the results matched. So social media were central because of the immediacy, because it was in the hands of so many citizens who were involved, who were interested. In a way, social media seized the day from the legacy media. You had almost everyone depending on social media for the breaking news. Social media came alive for us this time.
However, given today’s shifting alliances and the insurgent new formations, growing public disenchantment with the existing political order and the likely deployment of information technology on a wide scale but with scant inhibition in the forthcoming general elections, is it entirely inconceivable that the outcome may bear some resemblance to recent election outcomes in the United States and Italy.
OPPORTUNITIES IN NIGERIAN POLITICS IN THE AGE OF SOCIAL MEDIA
Politics is all about connecting to the people, building rapport and painting a mental image of a utopia future, where present problems no longer exist. It is a mind game, where the goal of an effective campaign is to influence people’s perception and consequently their electoral decisions.
The election campaign therefore uses social marketing skills, where the social media today plays a vital role.
During the 2015 elections, the social media served as a timely watchdog of election results to a significant degree. They closely monitored not only what was happening and when it was happening for greater efficiency and intervention when need be; they reported results as soon as INEC confirms them. Even the Independent Electoral Commission, INEC, used social media. In that manner, and because people were naturally attuned to results, tweets and re tweets of election results went viral
Meanwhile, following the recently concluded general elections in Nigeria, it appears clearly that media have contributed in creating awareness politically among the citizens of the country within and in Diaspora. Most importantly the social media and to be more specific, the Facebook has played great role. In order to be most specific, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Radio service is chosen for the study in order to explore and examine the extent to which Facebook impacts on the political behaviour of people. The reason for choosing radio may not be unconnected to the nature of the medium in terms of immediacy, how its metamorphosis manifests on messages using other media platforms and the nature of vast population in the chosen country as they do listen more than they read.
Baran & Davis, (2000) attempt to make understanding of the media theories easier considering the cost of understating the media and their messages especially within the revolution of technology. Baran & Davis, further argue that the media have impacts, positing that scholars can consider how the media industries came up from the historical perspective, and use current developments, so that they can interpret what obtains at the moment.’
Carey (1989: 87 cited in Meikle 2009:170) argues that reality in the present world is only determined by simple push of buttons through variety of ways that include, speech, listening, writing, reading and viewing. Furthermore, Carey, in Meikle opines that if one only receives messages without participation, he/she is a mere “passive recipient.”
The era of media effects has come and gone, however, the ‘remediation’ or rather metamorphosis of the media still exert great impacts on social, cultural and political spheres in society. Baran, & Davis, (2000) in their work, explore media theories based on their phases with an attempt to distinguish between scholars’ views in the past and the present time. However, history is important as it keeps its followers abreast of past occurrence which enables better understand of what is obtainable for prediction of what is likely to happen in the future. It is based on this view that it is deemed expedient to relate any media study to the past in attempting to build a plunging stone or a peephole that serves as panorama of viewing the future of the media.
Despite the fact that there is huge debate on ‘digital divide’ among countries of the world; the most vulnerable being the so-called ‘Third world’ countries, there are still advances in the widespread of the internet development in such nations. In addition, Nigeria is a country that is considered as the largest, which is why it is nick-named as ‘Giant of Africa.’ Nigeria therefore, is doing well in terms of media including the social media since their debut. Therefore, like the conventional media, the social media are also used to achieve so many objectives, socially, culturally, and politically. Recently, Nigeria held its general elections which normally usher in new leadership in the three tiers of the government in the country. A part from the other sources of information, like the newspapers, magazines, radio and television, the internet was used as one of the viable media that are interactive in nature.
PERILS ON NIGERIAN POLITICS IN THE AGE OF SOCIAL MEDIA
The Power of Confirmation Bias
One of the hidden forces that operates on social media is confirmation bias. This is especially powerful when it comes to controversial topics, including politics. If you’re like most people, the majority of your friends and followers on social media probably share your outlook. This means that the vast majority of tweets, Facebook posts, pins or other content you read on these sites tend to express the same point of view, one that you already hold.
Rumors, Fake News and Conspiracies
Political campaigns are now influenced by every story, whether true or not, that gets spread around social media. It’s getting more and more difficult to separate actual news from fake news online. Social media makes this distinction especially confusing. The constant stream of memes, links and rumors about political leaders and candidates is a mixture of truth, lies, satire and speculation.
Social Media and the Future of Politics
Because social media is relatively new, we’re just starting to see its impact on society. There are sure to be many political changes that come about due to social media. There are now proposals for internet voting, which could lead to more people participating in elections.
NIGERIAN POLITICS IN THE AGE OF SOCIAL MEDIA: OPPORTUNITIES AND PERILS