So dear readers, here is an honest to goodness blog post. Some of you know what I do, but I probably a lot of you don’t. Mostly that’s because even I’m not always sure what I’m doing on a day to day basis. But, under the advisement of my mom some smart people I’ve decided to start a series based on some of the aspects of my job. This one is about the role of social media and how it affects what we are doing in light of eternity. To that end, part of my job is help DOVE Africa engage in social media. I’ve redesigned and launched our new websites – doveafrica.com and springsofafrica.com, plus DOVE Africa also has a FaceBook page. (you can “like” us here)
Culture and society are changing at an ever-faster pace. Thanks to the advent of the internet and cellular/smart phones people are becoming more and more ‘connected’. Email has been a great tool in deseminating information across a large distance in moments. But it is very quickly being overtaken by the social media networks.
The coming generations are learning to communicate in new and different ways than those of their predecessors. For them it is about having a dialogue, not listening to a monologue. Social media and networking are the keys to reach them and get them interested in the future of Kenya. We need to reach them at their level.
In February 2004 college student Mark Zuckerberg and his roommates started a network for Harvard students, in just seven years Facebook has grown to over 600 million users (I’m one of them, wanna be my friend?). That is 10% of the earth’s population. Twitter, a micro-blogging tool, has grown to 175 million users since its launch in 2006, and is adding an average of 370,000 per day (you can follow me here). We’ve even added new words to our daily lexicon because of social media, i.e. going viral- to describe the sudden growth of a post on a social network, ‘friending’ someone, ‘tweeting’, etc.
Social media is playing a role in politics. In the revolt against the most recent elections in Iran, the Western media would have had little to report had it not been for YouTube videos that were being posted by people on the ground. Facebook has also been credited in inciting the groundswell of support for the revolutions throughout North Africa and the Middle East during the “Arab Spring”. And who can forget the trouble that some American politicians have found themselves in for inappropriate uses of social networks.
It is a rarity in Kenya to have a land-line telephone, instead most everyone has a mobile phone. The social media networks have seen the trend and made allowances for it, thus the ever prevalent ‘app’. You can Facebook, Tweet, and check your professional associates on LinkedIn from the palm of your hand. You don’t have to wait for the evening news or the morning paper to know what is happening in the world, information is immediately available on your phone.
All of this feeds the desire of the coming generations for transparency and genuineness. They will no longer stand for platitudes and patronizing speech. They may not agree with what you stand for, but if you are willing to hold to your stance with reasoning behind it, they’ll respect you. Social justice issues and causes are very popular with Generation Y and the Millennials. They want to know that they are making a difference in the world and are using the social media networks to partner together to do that.
Unless we are willing to speak to those who will be the next leaders in the language and context that they understand, they will see us only as archaic and out of touch. We will no longer be given a place to teach them or empower them. If they do not learn from our mistakes then they will be doomed to repeat our history. And that, Kenya cannot afford.