Social Media: A Case of Build or Break
If there is anyone who ever thought of shutting down social media, well that is as good as daydreaming, technically it is impossible. Also, it is important to note that there is a difference between shutting down and blocking it. With that in mind, one can safely say social media is here to stay.
The sooner people come to terms with the new reality the better. Two decades ago very few people had access to a computer, the internet and let alone a cellphone. We are talking of around 1997 and earlier.
The main reason was cost and limited knowledge about Information and Communications Technology (ICT). Owning a desktop was a huge investment. Few companies, organisations, academics and some commercial farmers had PCs. Connection to the internet was via a dial-up network.
This is a connection via a “land line” plug into a modem to your PC. This was not ADSL. Enter Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram and many others. The uptake of these in developing countries was initially slow owing to the cost of handsets and limited wireless coverage, but that is history.
Smartphones are relatively cheap and 3G/4G coverage spreads all over. This means that more people have access to the web, internet, social media and any other applications that are available online. That is a game changer.
Mind you most people who use smartphones in Zimbabwe care less about Googling and Wikipedia but are home and dry with Facebook, WhatsApp access and Twitter, this also contributed to the increase of Data being consumed in the country which recorded 5.22 million GigaBytes (GB) in the first quarter of 2018.
Potraz in its 1st Quarter of 2018 reported that active internet penetration rate increased to reach 52.1% in the first quarter of 2018 from 50.8% recorded in the last quarter of 2017.
Today anyone with a phone is a potential news reporter and consumer. This has had both positive and negative effects. The fact that millions of people have internet access at their fingertips is a great milestone. This is the whole idea of bridging the digital divide.
It also means that no one person can censor what people can read and access in terms of news. People take photos and record videos of scenes are its social events, fuel queues or bank queues in an era of erratic commodity supplies.
Naturally, those with the responsibility of making sure that we do not face these shortages do not like such news to be shared. Images or videos of empty shelves on social media often go viral.
Social Media can easily be a platform for falsehoods and can cause panic amongst citizens. For example, a rumour spread swiftly about the shutting down of Ecocash, with the message encouraging users to transfer their money to other platforms.
Such incidents give social media a bad name. It is now difficult to control what mobile phone users send and receive. This is a big challenge. The Government like all other governments cite national security issue as the reason why they want to monitor our activities on social media.
This brings up the contentious issue of privacy vs security. With more and more people going online, there are numerous opportunities and threats on social media platforms.
From a business standpoint, social media is a platform that can promote a sole trader or a small to medium enterprise to market their products. Visibility on the internet is the same.
You have access to unlimited markets 24/7 literally. This is what we should be using social media for. But in an environment where internet access excitement is still high for many, it will take a while for most people to take social media within their stride.