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Influence of social media on the Nigerian government

~Chinedu A. Okoye

Social media has kept on growing as a form of communication. It has done lots of impacts both positively and negatively in society. Its influence has been felt in the educational sector, economical sector, social sector and even the political sector. Social media is simply known as the interaction of people through the means of the internet. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs are all social media platforms which are used for communication. This article looks at how this social media has influenced governance in Nigeria. Social media grew in importance as a forum for political activism in different forms in Nigeria. the  It’s platform has created new ways in which Nigerians can fully participate in what is happening in the government level. It exerts tremendous influence because it is now a massive tool which is very fast and effective at reaching a global audience. 

Social media is a wide umbrella that includes many types based on their functions and purpose. They include Social networks, media networks, discussion networks and review networks. Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn – which is more professional than the other listed- are considered to be examples of social networks. They specialize in connecting and exchanging thoughts, ideas and content with other users- often with users who share tastes and interests. Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat are examples of media networks which is used for saving, sharing and redistribution of photos, videos and documents and other media.  Quora, Reddit and Digg are instances of discussion networks. It is used to share and discuss news, information and opinions. 

The impact of social media in the Nigerian government since its existence is that it has brought closer communication between the government and her citizens. This has been a big issue in the medieval period where the government can not know the needs of the people and the people lack ways to make their minds known to their leaders. Social media has made the leaders communicate faster and reach the targeted citizens in a simpler form this will also aid the citizens to approach its leaders in a targeted form without the intermediate role of mass media. When there are disturbing issues in the country, conversations, reactions, feedbacks and debates are generated online as well as support and participation for offline events. Theses messages are shared to people which allows a new audience to be reached and participate in it.

It is quintessential to note that the impact of social media in Nigerian government can be dated back to 2014 when 276 Chibok schoolgirls were kidnapped by the terrorist group “Boko Haram” there was an international community trend of #BringBackOurGirls Hashtag to speak up for them and for government to act fast for there release. Another instance is the #EndSARS Hashtag which the citizens trend because of police brutality on the citizens of the country. These online protests have gone a long way to show how uneasy the citizens are under the government and has caused elected officials to respond immediately to the pressing issues. The citizens have used social media to show that the power of the people is stronger than the people in power. The government are forced to act even when they must have kept mute in the malicious situations disturbing the peace of the citizens. Much social media handles run projects geared towards bringing the government to the people and promoting engagement.

Social media enables democracy to be shared internationally. It is so simplified that there are now proposals for internet voting, which could lead to more people participating in elections, having a free and fair election and monitoring of their votes. In the gubernatorial elections held in the Edo, South-south and Ondo, South-west of Nigeria this year, the media made a massive impact such that people used it to inform others what was happening within their polling unit. The stakeholders had to display the results of the election and this help put in check a free election giving the people their mandate.

Social media has influenced government's performance by helping in tracking the opinions and moods of the people and instead of using traditional ways of collecting responses from the public,  governments can utilize such information for more effective decision making. The media has opened a new way for people to communicate with each other and exchange views, comment on policy, report crime, or petition for change.

The media helps the public know about the people in government. It exposes their secret plans which they want to hide from the public. One can easily go online to view all qualifications of the person in a government position without much stress. If the person must have impacted positively the media is there to show it to the world, if also there are negative impacts the media never forgets to display such. All these help the audience who will still exercise their franchise know how to support the individual who will take up a leadership position.

The media has helped in the dissemination of news, poll results and rumours at a very high speed. Before the advent of social media, people had to wait for TV news, radio broadcast or the next publication of newspapers to get the latest information but it is not so now because online news an all day and all night phenomenon. Social media has taken this a step further. While you can access news on many websites at any hour, most people spend more time on sites such as Twitter and Facebook than they do on serious news or political websites. This means that you get all of the latest trending news stories and opinions shared by your friends whenever you log on.

One of the hidden forces that operate on social media is confirmation bias. This is especially powerful when it comes to controversial topics, including politics. If you’re like most people, the majority of your friends and followers on social media probably share your outlook. This means that the vast majority of tweets, Facebook posts, pins or other content you read on these sites tend to express the same point of view, one that you already hold. It is natural for people to surround themselves with others of like mind. This is true both online and offline. On social media sites, this can create the illusion that “everybody” thinks the same way. If you have a few hundred friends on Facebook, for example, and 90 per cent of them agree on most political issues, the information you get will be filtered through this bias. People will post links to stories that confirm your existing bias. They’ll repeat opinions you already hold. For this reason, social media may reinforce our opinions and make it more difficult to entertain alternative points of view. In politics, it can help to make people more opinionated and less tolerant of others. On the other hand, if you make an effort to connect with an assortment of people with diverse viewpoints, you can overcome confirmation bias and use social media to make you more open-minded.

The positive impact of the media has proven to be a welcome development and should be welcomed by the government if we are to progress as a country. The recent attempts to silence the voices of the people by the politicians on social media through the Social Media Bill and Hate Speech Bill means that democracy is being taken few steps back as the government will be in charge of anything being shared online. Provided the media is being promoted, it impacts will only increase as the time goes on.

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