The Impact of Social Media on the Social, Political and Economic Environments in Africa

The Impact of Social Media on the Social, Political and Economic Environments in Africa

Oluwabukola Adelaja (University of New South Wales, Australia)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4197-6.ch019


The purpose of this chapter is to evaluate the effect and potentials of social media as a tool for social, political, and economic change in Africa. This chapter argues that social media has become so entrenched in various facets of society that it has become a mechanism impacting social, political, and economic life in Africa. This chapter looks at the 2011 Nigerian elections and the worldwide Kony Movement against Kony the Ugandan warlord, as tools/examples of analysis. These are some of the developments that have driven the debate about the ability of social media in bringing about social, economic, and political change and participation in the African continent. The research method adopted in this chapter involves an analysis of a growing scholarship addressing the various arguments proffered on this topic. The chapter concludes by establishing the impact of social media on social, economic, and political life in Africa as well as identifying challenges posed by this development and making recommendations for the regulatory framework required to effectively harness these potentials in Africa.
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An Analysis Of The Impact Of Social Media On Society

There is an undeniable connection between recent occurrences in the world and the social media. Since these have happened, people have become more aware of how social media can and has become a tool with which they can humanize, obscure, and abstract phenomena. This allows their voices to be heard on the global stage. Asur and Huberman (2010) postulated that the ease of use, speed and reach of social media has led to a change in the manner of societal discourse in society and has become a trend setter for topics ranging “from the environment and politics to technology and the entertainment industry.”3 Social media by nature involves the use of tools, services, and applications for social interaction. This has become a medium where people gather and express their opinions in a simplified manner and in real time. This characteristic of social media allows people to expand their ideas and influence in many areas.

There have been critiques on the use of social media and the Internet, and concerns that that they are potentially damaging to our thinking, our culture, and our society in general. For example, Nicholas Carr (2010) in his book The Shallows argued that since the advent of the Internet, we are becoming ever more adept at scanning and skimming, but what we are losing is our capacity for concentration, contemplation, and reflection4. This position, even if it is true, does not take away from the fact that social media has changed the way in which ideas change hands and how fast those ideas spread. It has also become a valuable repository of information—statistical and otherwise—which in itself can be seen as a form of currency in its own right and a tool for change in the society.

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