Perhaps, Social Media is best classified as ‘Human character at centre of Tech-battle’? On the one hand is ‘Data Protection’ and on the other is Data offensive and manipulation by Big-Tech. Regulate, Over-regulate, De-regulate, Mid-regulate and/or Self-Regulate?
How do we moderate the balancing acts of the Tech-umbilical-cord between Social Media and the global battle of human attitudes and freedom of everything? Indeed, beyond the Social Media battle is the emerging Data Colonialism phenomenon facing Africa; as perhaps the most vulnerable block out of all the Pillars of digital transformation. This is against the backdrop that age 15-26 are core, active and impressionable class of users of Social Media.
Fast forward to 2050, with 400 million population. What do we do?
The central components of ‘to or not to’ regulate Social Media are within the confluence of the following; ‘Fundamental Human Rights, Inquisitive Minds on Public Space, Trustworthiness, Ethical Values and Accelerated or Delayed Innovation Cycle. Others include Data falsification, Mis-information, Dis-Information, Cybercrime and Privacy related concerns. These concerns border on the safety, security, and harmony of life. Whichever way we look at it, the SM space has been weaponized. These and the Politics-of-Things (PoT) have become tough and conflicting battlegrounds. This scenario calls for the harmonization of Tech-of-Everything.
Hence, something must give way!
If the title of this piece does not comfortably illustrate and constructively convey the required articulation and direction; perhaps we should collectively baptise it as: SOCIAL MEDIA–The Emerging and Unstoppable New World of Tech? Meanwhile, there is need to reflect, and ask ourselves: What indeed is Social Media? Is it something new? Or rather, that part of our hidden sociology and unshared humanity, accumulated overtime, and now excavated and suddenly erupted into the tech-enabled public sphere?
Moreover, has it helped to magnify the energy of free speech as a measure of our collective civilization? Actively enabled by technology platforms, SM has forcefully emerged into complex curves of future digital world. To do that is to pull the house down! According to a popular African proverb: ‘when/what the eye sees, the mouth talks.’ Also, ‘what/when the ear hears, the mouth speaks’. These interactions breathe life into human endeavours. Therefore, should we decouple SM as a critical pillar of the digital economy?
To do that is to pull the house down!
To consciously interrogate this storyline, it is important to recall the maxim that naturally; every healthy child comes out of the womb, announcing her/his arrival with a cry, voice, shout and radiating smile thereafter. For this and other intelligible reasons, the Social Media evolution is not only unstoppable, but an inevitable new world. It is and will remain a critical umbilical cord of the digital technology world.
So, what do we do?
The ordinary response is to “Just imagine it”! This is because Social Media has taken over as the hologram of our emotional intelligence; which overtime have consolidated into the images of the good, the awesomely good, the bad and the frighteningly ugly. Welcome to the Social Media Planet.
Now, let us travel back in time to recall humanity 1000 years ago and then, journey forward into the future world of 500 years from now! Indeed, it is fascinating to note that unlike other mammals, there is only one umbilical vein in the human umbilical cord. Can you see the connections between the umbilical AI, ML and SM at an unimaginable Tech-level? Navigating the Social Media structure presupposes that it is made up of an array of incomprehensible data structures; with changing and/or manipulative variations.
These variables account for ‘the people, the mind dataset, the platform, the content (idea, text, images, voice, colours, music, and potency of the illuminating graphics, etc’,) and are the limitless algorithm of the emerging world. It brought Donald Trump to life and many more.
Trust me, we are yet to see the real Social Media Engineering of the beauty and the Beast! To some, Social Media is as subjective and impulsive as ‘Man must wack and Man must talk’ – (apologies to the millennia) – ‘man must yarn’!
However, the red lines are the limits of what the eyes can truly see and witness; what the ears can truly hear, the brain can intelligently configure, and the mouth can trustworthily and ethically deliver to the tech public space at the platform levels, for justified consumption at almost the speed of light? Perhaps, what humanity is currently experiencing is “mindsets and contents at war.
This war of content authoring, readership, and followership programming (versus us) has become omnipresence at the centre of Social Media divide. It has built a monumental albatross of complex optimism, misconceptions, self-assurances, trust/distrust in public data and information flow; where custodians magnify and applause inflammatory contents, smile to the bank and/or deny ownership at will. The profound situation we find ourselves, amongst other critical factors is, because SM emerged single-handedly without being birthed by public trust institutions.
This makes it akin to ‘all sides at war against all sides for war! So, what and where are the red lines? Governments must come clean with the fact that Big-Tech own the digital platforms (though enabled by government frequencies). Further, they have more data than government institutions. Therefore, they know more than government and the people combined.
The irony is that the people own the data without any control of it! The situation becomes more complex as Data migrates to the Cloud and beyond. Data owns and rules the world.
In the last 24 months, there have been many conversations around the world amongst Government thought-leaders, Tech-Company Vision-bearers, Big-business Corporate investors, Economists, Unseen Market forces, the Millenia Savvy Users and Enthusiasts, and perhaps children yet unborn? For the benefit of all, it would be naïve to assert that Social Media should be and forever remain 100% unregulated! We can as well, design and construct a new Autobahn (Cars, Trucks, Bikes, etc Superhighway) without rules and regulations for users.
In life, as also in Tech Ecosystem, market forces alone does not develop humanity – but only a part of it. We need to further interrogate the SM landscape, ensuring the integration of all-inclusive supporting bait to build robust and sensible trustworthiness framework. This would be essential for delivering a sustainable SM directive that delivers innovation support; as well as youth assurances, digital security and encourages strategic policy engagement strategies that reduces avoidable risks to the barest minimum and yields sufficient wealth.
Social Media as the ultimate dynamic Tech-Influencer
If we note that at the dawn of the Internet, there was no Social Media; then perhaps we may be right to classify SM as accidental communication? Many definitions of what SM is or is not, abound. Amidst the complexities of what is today understood as Social Media, the model below towers above others. “Social media is understood as the different forms of online communication used by people to create networks, communities, and collectives to share information, ideas, messages, and other content, such as videos. 1. Social media must include online communication, meaning the history of social media cannot begin before the invention and widespread adoption of the internet; and 2. Social media depends on user-generated content.
Perhaps, this is why typical websites and blogs do not get included in the world of SM. Only certain people can post to these sites. Also, there are significant restrictions on the types of content that get uploaded (Historycooperatives.com). Concerned issues of SM regulations, according to Forbes.com reveal that; “Some of the strongest proponents of social media argue that it is a matter of public interest to regulate social media. They say that regulating it may be as important as regulating prostitution, alcohol and/or tobacco. One of the arguments they make is that social media empowers large corporations to control the flow of information. What price are we ready to pay to ensure that SM does not orchestrate, lead us to and/or aid and speedup World War 3 at the expense of stagnation of Innovation?
There is an elusive world out there, rapidly developing before our eyes. But no one can determine its ultimate trajectory and destination. Can the SM world be regulated and prohibited?
The answer lies between sociological equity in attitudinal management and undeniable self-regulation traded in moderation. Nay Social Media is too big-to-fail, and too complex to be effectively policed.
The world has gone Mobile and unstoppable. Below is a summary of the Social Media Statistics for 2020:
- Currently, there are 3.5 billion social media users worldwide. Facebook is the most popular social media platform.
- 90.4% of Millennials, 77.5% of Generation X, and 48.2% of Baby Boomers are active social media users.
- Users spend an average of 3 hours per day on social networks and messaging.
- 73% of marketers believe that social media marketing has been “somewhat effective” or “very effective” for their business.
- 54% of social browsers use social media to research products.
- 71% of consumers who have had a positive experience with a brand on social media are likely to recommend the brand to their friends and family.
- 49% of consumers depend on influencer recommendations on social media.
- 500 million daily active Instagram stories are uploaded worldwide.
- 91% of all social media users access social channels via mobile devices. (Obalo.com)
This Tech-Battleground has become an essential part of the existential fabric of human life and unstoppable. It is the cry of the human creature out of the womb. Remember George Floyd – and for 8 minutes 34 seconds, the man cried for the whole world to hear/see. And Social Media authenticated the truism. Thank you -SM.
However, and indeed, beyond the SM Battle is the emerging Data Colonialism phenomenon facing Africa; as perhaps the most vulnerable block out of all the tech-player or spectators pillar of the new world of complex data movements. It is time to deduce what percentage SM is (directly or indirectly) responsible for the world deaths of migrants crossing the ferocious oceans to Europe over the years?
What do we do?
The Social Media challenge calls for digital Sociology Research. Going forward, Africa must intensify her digital Research and Development Framework; as well as improve her funding strategies and building capacities on Electronics, Data Scientists and Software Engineering Education.