For some time now, social media has been viewed as nonsensical and somewhat perverting… and of course its biggest victim would be the millennial generation.
Just a little over a week ago, Techzim wrote about how the army boss had expressed some concerns over how our Zimbabwean culture was being eroded by social media and all. I know this is not a new story, we’ve heard it all before. And of course, I totally get it, if you’re not a millennial your interpretation of social media would be a bunch of sexually perverted people doing nothing but hit on each other, being vocal on things that don’t matter and probably spreading fake news.
However, because we (the millennials) know what social media is really about, we’re not too bothered by this, but here’s the problem…. Our Zimbabwean government consists mostly of ‘youthies’. Well, that’s not a problem until you understand our local definition of ‘youthies’. ‘Youthies’ in Zimbabwe are anything but youths… and that on it’s own already says tonnes on how they view social media.
In fact, the government made its position on social media quite clear in the last few months – even to the extent of creating a ministry for that. But then again, that government was automatically dissolved when the ‘non-coup’ which led to the resignation of the (former) president happened. And now there’s that temptation to say “well at least we now have a new government”, but we all know why I can’t yield to that.
Nonetheless, it’s not such a bad thing because contrary to popular belief, an old dog can be taught new tricks…you just need to set the right conditions for it. I believe the right conditions have already been set (2018 elections wink wink) and now it’s time for the new tricks to be taught.
So Government, why do you need social media?
1. You get to know what’s on the ground
Let’s be honest, it’s hard to know what’s happening on the ground floor when you’re staying on the top floor (poor metaphor but message conveyed). The government in this case really doesn’t know what the ordinary person is facing on an ordinary day. Well if you think I’m lying, ask Hon Chinamasa. This becomes a problem because the ordinary day of the ordinary citizen is the whole business of the government.
I know there should be intelligence on the ground that reports to the relevant government officials but using the Hon Chinamasa example again, I’m forced to doubt its efficiency.
Social media has become an integral part of our lives and it’s for this reason that you can literally be up to speed with whatever is happening around you. I remember a few weeks ago Techzim wrote on how social media was there to report on the ‘non’ military takeover when formal press wasn’t and hence further emphasising the point.
People are keen to report on things, discuss them and even give pointers on the way forward, especially on Twitter. It might be a millennial generation craze (plus Jonathan Moyo) but trust me, all bases are covered. We are not restricted to only talking about ourselves and our own personal lives but with cameras and all, we have no boundaries as to whose space we encroach and ironically that’s the advantage of social media as far as this point is concerned.
And the fake news problem? Honestly it isn’t much of a problem once you get the hang of social media (because you tend to develop an eye for fake news) or the alternative would then be to simply use fact check sites such as these (yes it’s Zimbabwean and we are affiliated).
So with all that said and done, what better way to keep informed and ‘get personal’ with people than on social media???
2. Fearless voices – open criticism.
We’ve heard of the perks of constructive criticism right? Honestly, constructive criticism is part of those things that make the world go round (your comments included 😉 ). Of course a line has to be drawn between constructive criticism and just pure trolls otherwise it just becomes counter productive.
Anyway, the idea is; on social media (or on the internet really), everyone has the courage to say whatever they are thinking to whomever they want (see me addressing the government). I acknowledge though that not everything that everyone is thinking makes sense or is ideal but isn’t it always better to then discard the not-so-ideal ideas after hearing them than not getting to hear them at all?
Social media removes the boundaries associated with the traditional means of communication. It removes geographical boundaries that otherwise limit progress. It removes the fear that keeps people quiet even when disgruntled and most importantly (in this case) it eliminates the bureaucratic boundaries that unnecessarily delay or even block development. So basically, people don’t need to first be an MP or book an appointment or whatever else which would have otherwise been done just to convey a three line message that by the way has the potential to change tonnes in the running of the country.
This leads us to the next point.
3. Intelligent Discussions
It’s obvious that it’s not just the people in government that have the best minds in the country. The best minds in the country are scattered throughout the country. But how best can you tap into those million minds? It’s now obvious isn’t it?
So far, I haven’t met any human with an expert opinion in everything hence the need for engagement and discussion on different issues. This gives better insight on issues of interest as it affords one a chance to get all (or at least more than one) angles on a particular matter.
Also important to note is that on social media we strip off rankings for a minute and deal with facts. Therefore, boot-licking typa suggestions and ideas can be significantly reduced. Once that’s achieved then we know we on our way to making a better Zimbabwe.
4. Track updates in real time
On most channels if not all, news updates are reported on the hour… unless of course there’s something super important going on. Therefore, to get more frequent updates one would have to rely on other sources and those sources would mostly be the ones that leverage on the internet.
Online news is one of the ways in which one can keep updated but I still maintain that social media plays the bigger role. It’s either the news is pushed out via social media or it’s actually information from social media that makes up the news. As one who works at a media company, I can tell you this for sure: social media is an amazing source of information!
When things happen, social media will almost always be faster than online news. With online news, one has to first gather significant information, put a ‘caption’ to the story, find a featured image, put tags, etc before publishing a post; by the time they’re done, 50 tweets on the subject they are writing about would have already been sent out.
5. Keeps you on your toes
Feedback is always important.
Since the government is for the people and by the people it then means more than being accountable to the president, it is accountable to the people.
Therefore, the only other way that any ordinary citizen can give feedback to the government any other time is through social media.
In fact, the existence of social media will always somehow conscientise the government that someone is watching. And not only is that someone watching, but they are not afraid to flag it when you don’t live up to expectation. If really the idea is to serve the people and deliver, then this is should excite you government officials.
So instead of exerting energy on trying to clamp down social media, why not leverage on its peculiarity to enhance delivery?