Barely 20 years ago we could not fathom that social media will take over our lives as it has and bring in such an influx of information and new cultures. Several trends on how we conduct our day-to-day lives and how we conduct business have changed and on the other side new trends have emerged all together all because of social media.
Businesses and governments have social media incorporated into their operations and information channels. Institutions all the way from humanitarian to religious have embraced social media as part of the new normal. Social media is now part of almost every brand’s communication and/or marketing strategy with other having dedicated social media expects to manage the brand’s social media. Social media took its stage in the world and it’s settled.
The political discourse is now being notably shaped by social media. We had the fresh elections conducted in the country recently and the power of social media opinion and the flow of information was clear. Opinions were formed quickly and spread like wildfire. Movements were formed. Breaking news travelled with the speed of light and fake news spread with equal intensity. This was before, during and after the elections and to this day the same effect continues with the same evident in other countries like the United States of America, Zimbabwe and South Africa. We also know of countries whose governments restrict or highly regulates social media especially in Asia and Middle East; this only speaks to the impact it has.
We had the #DataMustFall campaign last week targeting mobile service providers urging them to reduce data rates in the country. So people posted statuses on social media platforms like Facebook and Whatsapp with the theme #DataMustFall as a stand of solidarity to what are considered high data rates in the country. The campaign follows recent trends with campaigns like #BlackLivesMatter that gained ground worldwide. The campaigns’ effectiveness however depends on actual support on the ground, feasibility, facts, humanitarian needs, rights, responsibilities etal.
We have the covid-19 pandemic that has currently brought the whole world to its knees. Literally. The whole world has never been collectively at the mercy of a single threat that defies all known defenses and barriers. Information about the pandemic has been flowing all over from the day the world discovered it was at risk. In some way, social media has helped this virus mitigate the pandemic better, on a large scale and has helped people appreciate the impact of the virus. On the other hand, there are challenges brought on by social media.
With all this in mind, it is important for people to remember the importance of being ‘informed’ and not just be carriers and regurgitators of information. To be informed is it to actually have knowledge of a subject or situation with full understanding of the facts. Being informed is not the same as copying and pasting or reporting something as a fact just because someone else has said it.
Brands, people, institutions, governments and all have all been affected by misinformation spread through social media and the current pandemic has seen its own share of social media drama from false statistics to doctors being quoted prescribing treatment they have not prescribed. We have also had cases of people being said to be Covid-19 positive or vice versa and having different effects depending on the person and also being subjected to the very unnecessary and ill-conceived stigma.
Here is the bottom line: whatever you see or hear through social media make sure you are well informed of the authentic facts before reacting. Unfortunately, the trend has been reaction before thought, processing and confirmation and this is having rather unnecessary and sometimes devastating consequences that can easily be avoided. We have people whose lives and reputations have been ruined because someone started a chorus with no basis on social media and everyone just chanted along without verifying facts.
Every tool, no matter how good thrives on how it is utilized. Social media is a tool, how we use it will determine whether it will do good or bad works for us and our lives.
At the moment I will promote one social media campaign #StaySafe.
I rest my case