The power of social media.

Author:Odinga, Winnie
Position:THE NEW AGE - Column

Social media is a double-edged tool--it lends itself to abuse and idiocy but it also opens up the world and channels public rage. It is a powerful tool in the hands of the oppressed.

The classic novel, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, aka 'The African Secondary School Bible' is full of life lessons for all. The gist of the story is that the protagonist, Okonkwo, a leader and warrior in the Igbo tribe, spends his life waging battles to gain a higher status in the society. He despised his father who had been a lazy drunk and he tries to overcome the shame of his father by being unaffectionate, brutish, stubborn, irrational and violent.

There is an African saying that goes, Anger and madness are brothers. For the past six weeks or so I've been traveling both within the continent and without. As soon as I land in any country I immediately ask for wifi access to get online.

I want to check my messages of course but I always enjoy clicking the 'Trends' tab on Twitter to see what people in a particular country are in to and what's hot. (Here is a friendly travel tip: Trends bring you up to date with current affairs in a country and locals generally appreciate you are in the know.)

Lately during my travels i've been noticing a trend in trends. Social media is being used more and more as an avenue to express societal anger. Whether people are complaining about a failing system of government, an unjust arrest, organising for a protest, outing a bad product, complaining about poor service delivery, or the bottomless hell that is African traffic, the weapon of choice for expression is the internet.

This has become so effective that we now know that if someone types IN all caps, they are essentially yelling. You can actually feel the fury through your screen.

This ad-hoc study is in no way is the only litmus test for societal perception but it gives you a quick preview.

As I sift through my timeline while waiting (you always seem to be waiting in Africa ...), I find myself asking, when did things get this bad? I used to read about people getting anxiety online and I never quite understood why. If you are being bullied online, then simply get offline. However the world doesn't quite allow things to happen that easily does it?

While some of us of a certain age can recall a world without the internet or other forms of social media, more and more young people are born into a world where the social media is as much a necessity as food and shelter. We used...

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