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Social Media: What makes this generation tick?

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By Joy Ehonwa

This generation – born in the ‘80s, ‘90s and noughties – is defined by instant communication. With email, Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram, Pinterest and more, it’s hard to imagine how we survived back when we had to stand in queues with NITEL cards just to say, “I miss you.”

The face of communication has changed, and Joy Bewaji’s guest for the day is one who has put social media and internet technology to good use. Okechukwu Ofili runs the popular blog, ofilispeaks.com and is the author of several books including the controversially brilliant ‘How Intelligence Kills: Our Dangerous Addiction to Respect, Religion, Intelligence and Lots More’. In addition to writing and speaking, Ofili, who tweets via @ofilispeaks, is also the founder of okadabooks.com, an easy-to-use mobile book-reading app for the African market which won the MTN App of the Year Wward in 2013.

Ofili agrees that the merits of social media are many, and believes that its most vital advantage is that unlike radio stations and newspapers, it cannot be controlled; the people will speak their minds. But is this always a good thing? If you didn’t listen in, here’s a summary of what you missed:

Is social media is really as beneficial as we would like to believe? Ofili thinks that it is. “Social media is an amplifier,” he says. He believes that real change happens on the streets, and social media should be used to amplify ground efforts, and not as a replacement.

People often say that social media was responsible for Buhari’s win, but that’s oversimplifying things, Ofili declares. The fact that only 30% of Lagosians registered to vote, even though they were the most active on social media, made it obvious that the people who voted were not necessarily the ones on social media.

Is this generation obsessed with social media? Can they achieve more if they break off and focus more on real life? Not necessarily, Ofili says. For instance, a cell phone is a necessity, and it can also be a distraction if you spend hours talking to your boyfriend. It’s the same with social media. If you use it properly, it’s a plus. If you don’t, it becomes a big distraction. Wrong usage is making it the end all and be all, instead of using it strategically.

Ofili believes in strategy. He used social media to build his brand. He now writes for the BBC, and he believes this came about because he put his writing on his blog, tweeted a link to it, and someone saw it. So while some people focus on aimlessly amassing followers and garnering “likes”, he focuses on the money.

Joy agrees. If you spend so much time on social media, shouldn’t it be contributing to your income?

We have access to knowledge that our parents didn’t have; has this made us smarter? Joy doesn’t think so, going by the countless uninformed comments spouted online each day. Ofili believes this is because our educational system has not really introduced the internet as a learning tool, so most people don’t use internet for research, but for recreation and play.

Is it necessary for minors to have gadgets that provide access to the internet? Yes, Ofili says, but it has to be controlled. Young inventors start so early because they are exposed to technology early. However, parental supervision is key.‎ “You must give them a compass,” he says.

The bottom line is that, as with everything in life, there are good and bad aspects. There are bad books out there but we don’t discourage our children from reading because of this. Terrorists use social media as a recruitment platform, but this does not mean that good cannot come out of it. Negativity can be amplified, and so can positivity.

Ultimately, this generation must learn to harness the power of the internet, because it is how you use it that determines what you will get out of it. Some people attend events to look for love interests and side chicks, while others go there to network and hand out business cards. If you are a hardworking person, your social media interactions will give off that vibe, and if you are lazy, social media will amplify that. It’s really that simple.

Of course there was trivia time: Name three biscuits under the NASCO brand and you can win a NASCO goodie bag. Simply send your answer to 08033286604 or tweet it using the hashtag #NascoMoments

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