Being a paper delivered by Olalekan Ajia at the 2017 Ijebu Muslim College Old Students Association (IMCOSA) Annual Lecture recently.
Social Media, Sites/Platforms and Apps
But first, some definitions. What is Social Media? What are Sites/Platforms, Apps? According to Social Media Today, “Social media is more akin to a communication channel. It’s a format that delivers a message. Like television, radio or newspaper, social media isn’t a location that you visit. Social media is simply a system that disseminates information ‘to’ others.
With social networking, communication is two-way. Depending on the topic, subject matter or atmosphere, people congregate to join others with similar experiences and backgrounds. Conversations are at the core of social networking and through them relationships are developed.”
My own conclusions are that sites and platforms are online locations on the famous www or World Wide Web. These platforms host communities of interest or social networking where people of like minds congregate to discuss issues, exchange information, argue, agree and disagree, like and even dislike each other. However, in popular use, the terms are very often used interchangeably.
Simple enough, isn’t it? Not really, because apart from sites there are also Apps. Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia, among several other definitions, says the term “app“ is a short form of “software application” and that a mobile software application or mobile app is a software application designed to run on a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet computer. This is in contrast to desktop applications that run on desktop computers, and with web applications which run in mobile web browsers rather than directly on the mobile device.
Let’s just say for our own purposes here that you have to download Apps to get faster access to sites/services on your mobile phone, tablet or other mobile device.
DreamGrow has given me permission to share with you the following graphs of the top 15 social networking sites in the world.
Facebook with two billion users as at the end of June 2017 leads the pack with a huge margin in front of YouTube which has just one billion users, followed by Instagram with 700 million. Twitter has 313 million. Reddit displays 250 million users on its website while Meetup has reached 30 million users. Vine (now Vine Camera) 200 million, Pinterest 150 million. Ask fm 160 million. Tumblr 115 million. Flickr 112 million. Google+ 111milion. LinkedIn 106 million. VK 90 million. ClassMates 57 miilion. Meetup 30.3 million.
DreamGrow ranks the Top 10 Social Networking Apps as follows: Messenger (owned by Facebook) 1.2 billion; WhatsApp (owned by Facebook) 1.2 billion; QQ Chat 899 million; WeChat 806 million; Instagra (owned by Facebook) 700 million; QZone 652 million; Viber 249 million; Snapchat 200 million; and YY 122 million.
Please understand that according to the United Nations, the entire world population reached the 7 billion mark on 31st October, 2011, but is estimated to be about 7.5 billion this year. This means one out of about every four human beings on Planet Earth uses Facebook, created by Mark Zuckerberg, a Harvard University dropout on 4th February, 2004. In February 2014, he also acquired WhatsApp and Instagram in April 2012. Zuckerberg was born in 1984, so he is 33 years old.
According to Internet World Stats, Africa (Estimated Population 1.246 billion) accounts for only 28.3% internet use in relation to its population compared to the world average (Estimated Population 6.272 billion) of 49.7%
Internet Users Statistics for Africa.
In Africa, Egypt (Population 95.2 mllion) has 34.5 million Internet users and leads the continent with 32 million Facebook users. Nigeria (estimated Population 191.8 million) with 93.5 million Internet users follows with 16 million Facebook users, closely followed by Algeria (population 41 million), 18.5 million Internet users and 15 million people using Facebook. The other heavy African users are South Africa (Population 55.4 million) with 28.5 Internet users and 14 million people on Facebook, and Kenya (Population 48.4 million), 39.6 million on Internet and 5.5 million using Facebook. (These figures are from Internet World Stats as at June 2017)
Now this is a serious matter, 16% of our population uses Facebook. The Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) which I had the honour of working for between 1979 and 1993, claims 30 million viewers, but 16 million Facebook users in the same country is serious competition, because all they need is a smartphone, costing less than 5% of a smart TV set.
Social Media and social networking platforms are insidiously weaving themselves into the fabric of our existence, determining for our critical populations, the elite and the aspiring elite like your good selves, issues of personal happiness and unhappiness, social harmony and disharmony, good and bad governance, and even, Peace and War.
Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, if this is just about Youth Education, we’ll be done in half an hour and can go home, after discussing the merits and demerits of the Ogun State government ban on the use of mobile phones by pupils and students in our schools. This is a measure also taken by some other state governments, and which I largely support.
I however request that, while keeping a focus on classroom education, we examine the wider canvass of Youth Education in the larger sense of Youth being everyone from teenagers (from13 years) to 40 years, and Education being not just about certificates but preparation for a productive life in a given society.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Is Social Media of such importance that they can now determine personal happiness or unhappiness, even War and Peace? Like most other tools available to Man, Social Media can be used for the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Let us start with the Ugly so that we can save the best for the last. Social Media and Social Networking platforms can take away your right to life, if you let them, and I mean both literally and figuratively. Let me recast that, depending on who you are, what stuff you are made of, whether you are made of the sterner stuff, whether you come from a supportive family where there is both tough love and compassion, and more importantly whether you yourself have great dreams for your future or not; the people you meet on Facebook, especially when you are young and vulnerable, can cost you your life, or your happiness both present and future. You have heard of killers, rapists and kidnappers, they operate both in the light of day as well as in the shadows, they also operate in social media and on social networks, not only in Nigeria, but in other parts of the world. Nick McGillivary puts it in stark simple terms, “Criminals use social media to commit crimes. Robbers know when you’re away from your home on vacation and stalkers get information about your whereabouts via social media. Sexual predators find, stalk, and assault victims through social media.”
In 2012, stalkers found and seduced Cynthia Ososkogu on Facebook, lured her to Lagos from Jos, drugged, robbed, raped and killed her in a most brutal manner. It is just a small consolation that in May this year, Okwumo Nwabuzor and his nephew, Olisaeloka Ezike, were sentenced to death for her murder.
Through social media, people you know or don’t even know can steal your identity, clear your bank accounts, post horrid tales and pictures in your name, beg for money from your friends and acquaintances selling them urgent tear-jerking fake stories of your accident or misfortune in foreign lands.
If you send inappropriate photos and videos of yourself to your social media “friends”, you may find yourself naked on the World Wide Web, shred of all your dignity, your family name soiled forever.
Photos or no photos, social networking makes it possible for vicious minded persons to bully others either anonymously or openly. Several young persons across the world have committed suicide as a result of cyberbullying. A variant of cyberbullying is sexting in which some members of your circle or predators who somehow get hold of your personal information, send sexually revealing pictures of themselves to you, or invite or coerce you to do the same. For those of you who may think this is a cool thing to do, or girls, you want to retain you boyfriend at all costs, just remember, THE INTERNET NEVER FORGETS, no matter how many times you delete. The internet is a permanent record of your deeds and misdeeds. A few years down the line, when you are looking for admission or that great job, the harm you do to yourself now may be waiting at the door, determined to take its pound of flesh.
Over and beyond individual anguish, social media can be and is recklessly being used in Nigeria to ignite hatred and civil war among its nationalities and religious faiths. And you guessed right, it is basically young people who are recruited and being used for these online wars. Beyond our shores, hate-filled twitters and gender bashing propelled now President Trump into the White House where he is finding out that while it is easy to erect a throne of bayonets, you will not find it easy to sit on it. Permit me to quote at length from Acting President Yemi Osinbajo’s speech at the Senior Course 39, at the Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji, on Friday, 23 June, 2017.
In the past few weeks we have as a nation witnessed the escalation of such agitations usually couched in deliberately intemperate and provocative language. The reckless deployment of hate speech and the loud expressions of prejudice and hate, name calling of those of other ethnicities and faiths is a new and destructive evil in our public discourse. But even more divisive words, expressions, and actions calculated to create fear and uncertainty have also been freely used. Young people in the South-Eastern states under the aegis of IPOB, issued a stay at home order as part of actions to prove support for their agitations for secession. In the Northern states young people under the aegis of the Arewa youth, issued an ultimatum to Igbos living in the Northern states to vacate before the 1st of October. The problem with hate-filled and divisive speech is that they tap into some of the basest human instincts, bringing up irrational suspicions, fear, anger, and hatred and ultimately mindless violence. People who have lived together as neighbours and friends suddenly begin to see each other as mortal enemies.
Most appropriately, he cited the genocide in Rwanda, where between 7 April and July 1994, hate media, especially the notorious Radio-Television Libre des Mille Collines incited the killing of over 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus considered Tutsi sympathizers in the Rwandan genocide, were roused by hate media. If a small radio station can cause such havoc, imagine what a thousand online blogs can do in the hands of hot-headed youths operating under pseudonyms on social media.
But it is not only in civil strife that the cauldrons of war are stoked online. Today, the greatest threats to world peace are the face-offs between Russia and the USA on one hand over whether Russia hacked into American election processes, and between the USA and North Korea not just over the latter’s testing of intercontinental ballistic missiles but also hacking into the websites of world financial institutions.
Professor Yemi Osinbajo warned the graduands of Jaji Course 39 that in the 21st century the theatre of war is increasingly shifting to cyberspace.
Terrorist organizations, purveyors of hate speech, all of these and many more who seek to destabilize the world are busy staking out territory on the Internet, and scoring significant victories and conquests for themselves. … The Internet has altered or disrupted every industry we know of: Politics and Elections, Business and Commerce, Governance; and is changing the very nature of warfare. Websites teaching on how to make and use IEDs and other explosives are numerous. Today a great deal of the threats facing Nigeria are being nurtured and cultivated in the vast spaces of the Internet. The rumblings of secession, the dangerous quit ultimatums to ethnic groups, the radio stations and blogs that spew divisive speech and exploit our fault lines; all of these are now to be found online.
As if you don’t know, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab — the young Nigerian who tried to set off a bomb hidden under his pants aboard a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009, was recruited online by U.S.-born Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, also known as the “bin Laden of the internet”. Umar is currently serving a life sentence in the US while Anwar al-Awlaki was killed in a US drone strike in western Yemen on 30 September 2011.
Now for the Bad, starting from poor grades, even outright failure, arising from obsessive use of social media and social networking. Studies after studies have found a clear relationship between heavy use of social media and poor grades. Between March 2016 and March 2017, Chukwuemeka Monyei and Osasiuwa Edomwande conducted a Project Open Eyes survey of 2041 schoolchildren in Lagos and discovered that nine out of every ten of these boys and girls, aged between the ages of 12 and 18 own a mobile phone and over 80% of the phones were bought by their parents. While it was found that they employ the internet largely for academic and entertainment purposes, the researchers also found the children spent as much as a whole day online, especially during the holidays. They use the mobile devices immediately they wake up, on their way to school, while in school, and after school hours. They also disclose too much personal information online, especially on Facebook and Instagram, thereby compromising their safety and privacy. Nearly five out of every ten boys and one in every four girls had intentionally visited pornographic sites. At least 7% of the girls had sent nude or semi-nude photos of themselves to someone online.
US-based ProCon.Org In its excellent article, “Are Social Media Good for Our Society?” reported that students who are heavy social media users tend to have lower grades. 31% of teens say that using social media during homework reduces the quality of their work. Students who used social media had an average GPA of 3.06 while non-users had an average GPA of 3.82. Students who used social media while studying scored 20% lower on tests.
As we have seen since Professor Ishaq Oloyede took over at JAMB, social media tools such as texting on mobile phones and parallel communication cables to secret rooms where mercenaries send answers online in the place of candidates with the connivance of some owners of Computer Based Test centres…JAMB has blacklisted 48 of such Computer Based Test (CBT) centres used for the 2017 UTME for various offences.
Suren Ramasubbu while discussing all the other risks such as sexting and cyberbullying, paid particular attention to “Facebook depression” which is defined as emotional disturbance when preteens and teens spend a great deal of time on social media sites. The overuse of these sites also lead to “disconnect from reality” wherein social media actually turns the individual into an anti-social recluse.
Apart from damage done to individual youths, social media enables the spread of unreliable and false information, especially fake news, a weapon the Trump campaign used effectively against Hilary Clinton during the last US Presidential elections, and which, now, irony of ironies, President Trump is alleging American mass media are deploying against him.
ProCon.Org lists other negative effects of social media to include stress and damage to offline relationship problems as well as waste of personal time and official working hours.
And then the Good, all said and done, social media and social networking sites provide support for individuals to communicate and engage with people of like minds and interests. They empower young people and even adults to access informational and educational resources far beyond the school walls, breaking barriers of distance and time. Social media sites can help disciplined students do better at school
The ProCon.Org asserts that Social media allows people to improve their relationships and make new friends. “93% of adults on Facebook use it to connect with family members, 91% use it to connect with current friends, and 87% use it to connect with friends from the past. 72% of all teens connect with friends via social media. 83% of these teens report that social media helps them feel more connected to information about their friends’ lives, 70% report feeling more connected to their friends’ feelings, and 57% make new friends. Being a part of a social media site can increase a person’s quality of life and reduce the risk of health problems. Social media can help improve life satisfaction, stroke recovery, memory retention, and overall well-being by providing users with a large social group.
Social media spreads information faster than any other media. Social media increases voter participation and facilitates political change. ProCon.Org also proffer that social media facilitate job-seeking, employment and economic growth. Social media sites empower individuals to make social change and do social good on a community level and provide the platform for quick, easy dissemination of public health and safety information from reputable sources.
Social media and social networking are inescapable in today’s world, they do offer opportunities as well as present risks to the youth and the education of youths. Parents, guardians and teachers have a responsibility to guide young people with love, compassion and knowledge through the minefields as well as the joys of social media and social networking. But the youth must assume ultimate responsibility for the choices they make in using these tools.
After all, in all our kitchens, there are knives, matches and combustible materials, but we neither use the knives to kill members of our family, nor burn down the house except in those rare cases of temporary insanity or criminal negligence. I am confident Nigerian youths are far from the madding crowd.
Parents do need to sit up and do more than complain about “today’s youth”. According to Luke Gilkerson of Covenant Eyes, in their well-written book Parenting the Internet Generation, two approaches are doomed to fail. These are “helicopter parenting” which I interpret as parents hovering closely and menacingly over their children, condemnation, rage and punishment within reach, thus stoking rebellion and the joys of the forbidden fruit, and then the “lawn-mower parenting” in which doting parents clear the ground of all obstacles for their seemingly helpless children and thereby actually render them clueless.
To come down to our African kitchen level, before a child is allowed into the kitchen and taught to use knives or light fire in the kitchen, he or she is first taught to approach with caution, then taught how to remain safe and to protect the family, and they are their accompanied in their first culinary experiments. Rather than parents stopping their children from using these tools, or throwing them at the tools just to keep them happy, they should first educate themselves on how to use the internet, social media and social networking and then accompany them as participants in their pre-teen years. They should gently explain why they must give approval and retain or share passwords to internet sites, vet apps before they are downloaded they themselves should be the ones installing apps with their children and teach them how to control their privacy settings. They should also “be friend” with their children first offline and then online.
My fellow students of Ijebu Muslim College, Adeola Odutola College, Our Lady of Apostles, Muslim Girls High School, and other guest schools, I can assure you of my unwavering confidence that most of you are set to go places and conquer territory with your intelligence and industry. I have no doubt that most of you know who you are, where you are coming from, and where you are going. I am convinced most of you are made of sterner stuff than internet rats, cyberbullies, anarchists or internet victims. I believe most of you come from supportive families where there is both tough love and compassion, and more importantly, most of have great dreams for your future.
On 4 January, 2014, Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeldjan wrote a feature in the New York Times titled “What Drives Success?” Here is what they wrote about Nigerian students in the USA,
There are some black and Hispanic groups in America that far outperform some white and Asian groups. Immigrants from many West Indian and African countries, such as Jamaica, Ghana, and Haiti, are climbing America’s higher education ladder, but perhaps the most prominent are Nigerians. Nigerians make up less than 1 percent of the black population in the United States, yet in 2013 nearly one-quarter of the black students at Harvard Business School were of Nigerian ancestry; over a fourth of Nigerian-Americans have a graduate or professional degree, as compared with only about 11 percent of whites.
Since 2014, it has only gotten better, not only in the US but across the world. With you, it can only get better and better. Please use it social media to the glory of Nigeria.
Thank you for your attention.
- Social media Today.com, “5 Differences Between Social Media and Social Networking”
- ProCon.Org, Leading Source for Pros & Cons, “Are Social Media Good for our Society?” – online
- Nick McGillivray, “What are the effects of Social Media on Youth?” Turbis Future, October 12, 2015.
- Suren Ramasubbu, “Influence of Social Media on Teenagers”, Huff Post.
- Chukwuemeka Monyei and Osasiuwa Edomwande, “Academics: Pornography; Entertainment: Sexting: The Experience of Young Children Online” The Punch, 23 June, 2017.
- Fabinu Ibidapo, “Examining the impact of social media on Nigerian youth”, Peoples Daily, October 6, 2014.
- Communique Issued At the End of Ogun State Education Summit 2017. Friday, June 02, 2017.
- internetworldstats.com, “AFRICA 2017 POPULATION AND INTERNET USERS STATISTICS FOR 2017”
- Luke Gilkerson (Author) and Chris McKenna (Contributor/Editor), Parenting the Internet Generation, A Blueprint for Teaching Digital Discernment, 2016, Covenant Eyes, Owosso, MI 48867, USA.
- Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeldjan “What Drives Success?” New York Times, 4 January, 2014.