Social Media: A Friend or Foe for Africa’s Development
Social media has become a famous platform for interaction in the post-modern era. Studies have shown that more than half of the world’s total population uses social media. There is also a significant number of social media subscribers or users in Africa. Statistics have shown an exponential increase in social media users in Africa in the past decade – from approximately 43 million users in 2012 to about 384 million users in 2022. This rapid increase in the usage of social media is gradually making social media more and more influential. Its influence on the lives of its users across the different aspects of life is immeasurable. This has raised some arguments about the impact of social media on Africa’s development. There are others who argue that social media is a friend to Africa’s development considering its impacts in the areas of communication, promotion of social justice, political campaign, buying and selling or advertisement of different commodities, an avenue for making friends across different countries, and above all a major medium of interaction during Covid-19 pandemic era. On the contrary, there are others who irrespective of all these positive impacts see social media as a foe to Africa’s development. For them, social media has done more harm than good to Africa’s development. This is because most social media users are teens/youth who sometimes are exposed to harmful contents, which are self-damaging and can defame political opponents. It has also reduced face-to-face interaction and has damagingly altered the cultural values of African people. Considering these two parallel views, should we say social media is a friend or a foe of Africa’s development?
The rise in the suicide rate among the youth is another area of concern. This could be linked to the impact of social media, whereby some youth experience different kinds of cyberbullying, which sometimes give rise to depression, social anxiety, low self-esteem, lifestyle disruption and different kinds of mental illnesses. However, the rise in the suicide rate among the youth can also be the effect of post Covid-19 pandemic lockdown. But the question is, how can one talk about the effect of the post Covid-19 pandemic exclusively of social media when almost 90 percent of human interaction during Covid-19 pandemic was on social media? The May 2023 Issue of the Chiedza Journal seeks to explore and evaluate the impacts of social media across different aspects of the life of the African people. This evaluation will also offer a clue as to whether social media is a friend or a foe to Africa’s development or both.
There are many areas in which prospective writers can develop arguments on these issues. For instance, social media and democracy in Africa is another area of interest. How has social media contributed to an effective democratization in Africa? For instance, some political movements nowadays begin or become popular on social media. The recent and one of the most popular political movements of this kind in Africa is the “ObiDient” movement in Nigeria. Does social media enhance the manipulation of people’s opinions or does it help in educating the masses to make the right choice? What of those who are not on social media? How can they be reached? And what if the majority are not on social media? Would the minority on social media be able to make a significant impact? Can we now say social media is a tool for an effective democratization process in Africa?
Another area of interest that one could valuably explore is the impacts of social media on African cultures. To what extent has social media influenced and continues to influence our rich African cultures? Is it possible that the algorithm programmed by a Westerner with values of the West in him/her has cultural benefits for Africans? Another instance of social media’s influence on Africa’s cultures can be seen in a young man who was born and cultured in Africa but who has all of a sudden started speaking like a Jamaican, behaving like an American, and dressing like an Indian because he is following some celebrities from those countries. What impact does this have on our African cultures and to what extent does it influence the development of Africa? Conversely, one could also look at how social media has helped to understand different cultures and has taken away some of the negative prejudices people used to have against other cultures.
As noted previously, there are numerous topics that can be derived from this issue. Writers may also explore the aspect of data colonisation and its effects on Africa. Is our data safe on social media? What do you think the big tech giants will do with all the information of over 384 million Africans online? Is there a possibility that this data may be used to re-colonize Africa? Social media gives the illusion of communication whereas there is a significant difference between the various participants. How is one ever sure who the various contributors to these platforms really are? What authority do they have for writing? What is the effect of the anonymity of the contributors? In conventional media, contributors claim to be who they are and at least are not anonymous but is that the same case with social media? For example, to what extent do I trust a Yankee man who is my friend on social media? Do I share every aspect of my life with him? What could be the implication of sharing my life with strangers? This again raises another issue of insecurity on social media. The inauthenticity of social media users and how that inauthentic lifestyle may be a threat to one’s security both on social media and in real life.
In view of the May 2023 Issue, the Editorial Board of Chiedza, Journal of Arrupe Jesuit University invites articles reflecting on these or related issues developing the theme of “Social Media: A Friend or Foe to Africa’s Development” from different perspectives. Prospective articles, which may be philosophical, theological, literary, psychological, or historical, should be 4,000 words or less. We also welcome articles and book reviews on related themes or poems which do not necessarily reflect our theme. All articles are to be sent to: email@example.com either on or before the 31st of May 2023. Please refer to the Chiedza Website for submission preparation guidelines, author’s guidelines, and formatting/referencing style.
Agber Thaddeus, S.J.,
On behalf of the Editorial Board.