By Zelalem Girma
In Ethiopia, something has gone very wrong with the use of social media. In most cases, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter have turned out to be means of disseminating unfounded stories, wrong information, prejudice and falsehood.
For over a century, people of Ethiopia have lived together building a peaceful,harmonious and prosperous society with cultural amalgam and divers beliefs. They definitely espoused peaceful coexistence and cherished respect for each other until the evolution of social media began rocking down their tranquility and calm a decade ago.
This trend indicates that the people-people ties that sent a root for a century are shockingly deteriorating from time to time. Violence and instability are cropping up at every corner in the country due to the fictitious information being funneled into the ears of these serenity-and peace-loving citizens.
Due to the wrong use of such information technologies, the democracy, which is developing through time, could suffer setbacks. Of course, some people may not enjoy the dividend of development as they should. But they can properly utilize the rights the constitution entitles them–actualizing development to lead a prosperous life. Citizens must not be sweet talked into rudeness and incitement; and individuals need to resolve their differences differentiating the need and interests of the societies from theirs.
For example, many young Ethiopians are losing their lives at football fields pertaining to narrow nationalism rather than positively supporting their team. Needless to say, social media is deprived of accurate information as it provides effortless communication. It is seen coercing people lapse into bigotry and lies. As Facebook is not a trustworthy source of information, the government is currently obliged to block Face-book accounts for securing peace among societies, specially during sport competitions.
In fact, Facebook approved that in the 2015 American election, 146 million users might had seen Russian misinformation on its platform. ‘Google’s YouTube admitted to 1,108 Russian-linked videos and Twitter to 36,746 accounts. Far from bringing enlightenment, social media have been dishing out poisonous things.
In our country, social media also drives divisive wedge among society to aggravate dissension. Since recent years, social media has been invoking popular anger on the society. Social media is not the only channel that has the power to polarize issues at maximum level. Cable TV and radio news have a sense of responsiblity. Only social-media platforms are new and still poorly understood, particularly in exercising extraordinary influence over peace and stability.
Uploading photos, public posts, fallacious stories and ads on Face-book,the less-wise people,as Trojan horses, disseminate hidden agendas to hoodwink and manipulate innocent citizens. As they can sense how the credulous reacts, they collect sensational data about what will catch one’s eyes. This way they keep users scrolling, clicking and sharing–again and again. The result is surprising as users touch their phones thousand times a day.
According to the recent study on social media, only 37% of Americans trust what they get from social media, over half the segment of the society trust printed newspapers and magazines. Yet in the meantime, non-peaceful forces with bad politics could do a lot of harm against innocent civilians through Facebook.
Moreover, political rhetoric is not like other kinds of speech; it is dangerous to ask a handful of big firms to deem what is healthy for a given society. People want transparency about who pays for political ads, but incredible news posts wield a lot of malign influence on people who carelessly share such uploads.
Put to wrong use, social media are being abused. But, with a good will, society can harness them and revive the early dream of enlightenment. The meaning of the information being delivered does not matter all that much, as long as some attention is being paid. But there is one quality on which the system depends: that information gets shared.
Bellicose people share information because they want to draw attention towards themselves, and for what the things they share chronicles about themselves. They want to be heard, seen, and respected. They covet their posts to be liked, tweeted and retweeted. Like viruses, some types of information spread more easily and pass through social-media networks which later mar people’s peaceful co-existence. People must not share such contents as they are hardly informative.
The youth is mostly the victim of deceitful information and unethical social media practices. If there is no better knowledge about how to appropriately use the social media, the consequence could be disastrous. There are also people who come up with fake profile with worthless, unethical and destructive intentions of radicalization, and sowing the seed of hatred among societies.
It is indisputable that the social media is rendering people’s livelihood amenable by transferring knowledge one step further. Since the aforementioned technology is new for Ethiopia, its impact could be translated in many ways of benefiting or marginalizing the society. It has also undeniable contribution for the positive implication to political changes due to social media.
In sum, in this technological world, using social media all across the globe relationships are strengthened. Introduction of smart phones has promoted the use of these social media tools. Widely used social media instruments have become social media tools for various governmental and non-governmental organizations in Ethiopia. By the same token, social media could be social instrument of communication. They could play quite a role when it comes to interacting and sharing positive contents.
If social media could create a springboard for the development of real democracy, governments would become more transparent to work directly with the public. Sadly, offensive messages, fake news, hate speeches, and irrational arguments are creating hotbeds for chaos and conflicts between peaceful societies. Therefore, people need to analyze the contents of the message and identify the hidden agendas to avoid the attendant ills of the fabrications of these media outlets.
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