The social media is a powerful tool. Indeed, so powerful is it that governments in a number of countries agitate over means to rein it in.
The power of social media as a force for positive change cannot be underestimated.
Research shows that it has been deployed successfully the world over in rallying people of diverse backgrounds for noble causes; getting people involved in electioneering and drawing attention to critical socio-economic issues. Nigerian youths represent one of the most active users of social media the world over. A number of hashtags that originated from Nigeria have topped the global trends chart on quite a few occasions; with the most recent being during the #EndSARS protests which caught a global attention last year.
However, a large proportion of Nigerian youths fail to see or leverage social media as the potential game-changer it represents. Today, the youths want to use cruise and vibes on Twitter to wrest power from the ‘old men’. Even to vote is trouble for them. They would rather turn all issues into trends and joke with constant outrage.
There has been an ongoing call for the youths to get their chance at managing the affairs of the country. But the point is, politics and elections are hard. However, some youths in Nigeria believe they can ride on social media vibes and cruise to take power. Through the increasing reduction of social media to a cruise ship filled with vibe and entertaining contents, the efficacy of the platform is diminishing daily.
One of the recent manifestation of this worrisome trend was the needless brouhaha over the age of Bola Tinubu. The controversy generated an unnecessary uproar on social media. However, the question begs answering: is this what we have reduced the platform to?
Trust Nigerian politicians! They are already discerning the nuance of social media outrage. Many of them now employ hundreds of minnows who help them navigate the murky waters of social media.
But it is rather unfortunate, that of all the things Tinubu said at that colloquium, the dragging over his age became the most important thing? Tinubu said some pretty weighty things at the event. Things that require some serious deliberation. Although he has clarified the 50million recruitment into the Army, he also shone light on some salient points on the economy.
His advice for the government to embark on a stimulus package frenzy should be the real subject of debate. Where are we going to get the money? How can we measure the impact of the current ongoing N2.3trillion stimulus package?
These are some of the issues that should be getting attention. But this is only exposing social media’s weakness. The platform was not created for public enlightenment, but as a place to create contents for fun. Debating ‘austerity measures vs stimulus bill’ is not fun.
Which explains why the man’s position on the economy did not trend, rather his age became the major debate. These cruise and vibes have no electoral value. If indeed, Nigerian youths are serious about taking over, social media has become a weak tool to achieve it.
For the right amount of money, you can trend anything. To most people on social media, it is all about cruise, fun and making money. A few days ago, Twitter suspended a couple of ‘influencers’ for a coordinated paid campaign to put pressure on Cape Verde to release a wanted man, Alex Saab. According to reports, Mr Saab, a Colombian is wanted in Colombia and the US for money laundering charges.
It is extremely dangerous to reduce social discourse to the level of the current cruise fare on social media. Unfortunately, the monetization of social discourse caused the failure of the #EndSARS protests. For most participants, it was about validation and recognition. That was why there was no exit strategy.
In fact, the point is, social media has no capacity to deliver the Nigeria we all want. It is high time we saw social media for what it is: a Vibes and Cruise only platform.