Social Media is an effective tool and platform for social change. Social Media is a catalyst for social change and it is a platform that has helped young people around the world to get their voices heard. Social Media helped me to get on BBC World News, to bare my mind during the Occupy Nigeria protests. But I am surprised as to how quickly people can turn a positive experience into a negative one. The extreme negativity on social media in Nigeria needs to be curbed and we need to rethink how to properly utilize this tool for effective social change and purposes.
Recently, a group of young people on Twitter – an effective social media platform, decided to rally against the child bride issue. They used social media to get organized, and then they are criticized and are referred to as “attention-seeking emergency activists.” I was glad that these young people chose to take a stand against an issue because often times, young people in Nigeria are seen or described as “passive, unconcerned, and apathetic.” But I was disappointed as to the number of people that also spent an equal amount of time counteracting their efforts, being very combative, abusive, and making all sorts of baseless arguments and references. Some Nigerian citizens appear to suffer from something called: confusion. Hence, this could be the reason why governance has decayed and is beyond redeemable. We do not trust each other, we do not know one another, we do not take the time to learn simple facts about issues, and more importantly, we do not know what we want.
We fail to realize that there is no “us versus them.” Everyone suffers as long as there are no good roads, no electricity, bad hospitals are norm, students are burned alive in their schools, and extremely high unemployment rates have turned many young people to a life of crime. Kidnappings and armed robbery appear to be the norm due to hopelessness and there is no sense of security for anyone – whether rich or poor. Everyone is affected by the same issue – an inability to hold government officials accountable. Under our noses they fly around the world in private jets, put their children in good schools abroad, and gain access to the best hospitals in India, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Let me be the one to also remind you that Nigerian politicians are the highest paid in the world – for doing what exactly? As long as all these issues exist, there is “no us versus them.” Everyone suffers from the impact of bad governance. There is no such thing as “attention-seeking emergency activists.” If someone chooses to speak up against an issue that they feel concerns them, please let them. It is much better than being silent. Of course, diversity matters and not everyone will share the same opinion on an issue but for sustainable change and development efforts that deal with root causes can begin to occur, we need to overlook negativity, respect our differences, and more importantly work together to develop a strategy that will allow us to hold “elected” government officials accountable. This is what we need to think deeply about.