Social media benefits in Africa

Posted on August 7, 2017 12:06 am

Before social media, state controlled media was the main medium of consuming information in Africa. With exception of countries like Kenya, South Africa and Ghana, almost all other countries consumed what government wanted them to. But since social media era began in Africa, it has provided young people with a range of benefits, and opportunities to empower themselves in a variety of ways. Young people can maintain social connections and support networks that otherwise wouldn’t be possible, and can access more information than ever before. The communities and social interactions young people form online can be invaluable for bolstering and developing young people’s self-confidence and social skills.The use of social media and networking services such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat have become an integral part of Africans daily lives. While many associate social media with a degradation of young people’s social networks and communication skills, a recent research found that social networking services actually play a vital role for in young people’s lives delivering educational outcomes, facilitating supportive relationships, identity formation and, promoting a sense of belonging and self-esteem. The positive benefits of social media for young people in Africa are immense. For example, social networking services provide an accessible and powerful toolkit for highlighting and acting on issues and causes that affect and interest young people. Social networking services can be used for organizing activities, events, or groups to showcase issues and opinions and make a wider audience aware of them. Also, social networking services is being used to hone debating and discussion skills in a local, national or regional context. This has helps users develop public ways of presenting themselves. Personal skills are very important in this context to make, develop and keep friendships, and to be regarded as a trusted connection within a network. Social networking services also provide young people in Africa with opportunities to learn how to function successfully in a community, navigating a public social space and developing social norms and skills as participants in peer groups.

Studies in Africa have shown that social networking services rely on active participation, users take part in activities and discussions on a site, and upload, modify or create content. This supports creativity and discussion about ownership of content and data management.Young people in Africa are using social networking services to showcase content like film, music, photography and writing but most of them need to know what permissions they are giving the host service, so that they can make informed decisions about how and what they place on the site. Users might also want to explore additional licensing options that may be available to them within services.Social networking services like Twitter and Facebook are designed to support users working, thinking and acting together. They also require listening and compromising skills. Young people in Africa who have no skills in IT, should not be left behind and need to ask others for help and advice in using services, or understand how platforms work by observing others, especially in online gaming. In Africa, social networks have encouraged discovery. For example, if someone is interested in certain music, books, music bands or ideas, it’s likely that their interest will be catered for by a social networking service or group within a service or with a simple search on Google. Users looking for something more specific or unusual then they could create their own groups or social networking sites. Social networking services are helping people across Africa develop their interests and find other people who share the same interests. They help introduce young people to new things and ideas, and deepen appreciation of existing interests. And also, they help broaden users’ horizons by helping them discover how other people live and think in all parts of the world.Online spaces are social spaces, and social networking services offer similar opportunities to those of offline social spaces, places for Africans to be with friends or to explore alone, building independence and developing the skills they need to recognize and manage risk, to learn to judge and evaluate situations, and to deal effectively with a society that can sometimes be hostile. On average, such skills can’t be built in isolation, and are more likely to develop if supported. Having an online presence and being able to interact effectively online is becoming an increasingly important skill in Africa and those able to quickly adapt to new technologies, services and environments are already regarded as a highly valuable skills by employers, and are facilitating both formal and informal learning across the continent of more than 1 billion people.

Contador Harrison