17 August 2018

Ethiopia: Informed Social Media Use-to the Youth

Unless the youths consciously use social media, the platform may end up being destructive. Particularly in times of such broad-based reform efforts our country is engrossed with, ill-intent social media users can have all the potent to disarray what has been achieved so far.

Spotting fake-news, avoiding hate-speech and abhorring character assassination are only few of the skills and values that the youth should be equipped with to take the ongoing reform to a better end.

For this to occur, the media, education institutions, religious leaders, political activists and the likes have to design and implement activities which could raise the awareness of the youth.

We are in a critical time. Past injustices are being rectified. Citizens who were jailed for their conscience are made free, dissidents that opted for armed struggle turned their face to peaceful means, and prominent blogs and websites, previously denied accessibility, are unblocked... and yet numerous measures have been taken to level the ground for democracy.

These efforts were unthinkable few months ago. And it becomes possible with the series of defiance they youth waged against injustice. But now the aspiration to instill new system in Ethiopia has become achievable.

Bearing these in mind, everyone has to know that the tasks ahead of us are more complicated and trying. Thus, it is high time for all to invest in the youths to make them conscious on their social media use.

Any observer can notice how fake-news, hate speech and character assassination dominate the social media world in Ethiopia's cyber territory. As the saying runs: 'All is that glitters is not Gold,' information on the social media is not always representative of facts--there are deliberate distortions aimed at bewildering the public are not uncommon.

Individuals, who consider the youths no more than their cannon fodder, confuse the youth camouflaging their agenda behind sensitive elements.

But as Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed repeatedly exhorted the youths not to trade with the destructive stoke of naysayers, the youths has to take information that goes viral on the web with a pinch of salt.

The youths who are the engine of the country, that also make up the great majority of the population, should, therefore, be wise and skillful while consuming and disseminating information on the social media.

Indeed, internet trolls, those anonymous and ill-intent forces, are hard to be tackled with laws. Good awareness can do it better.

Therefore, as has been hinted earlier, the weapon to emasculate this evil is in the hands of the media people, scholars, religious leaders and political activists, among others. Be it single-handedly or in concert, these bodies can devise ways and means to raise the awareness of the youths.But at least their tasks should focus on alerting this section of the community on the contents, pictures, texts, and illustrations... , shared and social impacts of the messages - in one hand.

Obviously, as studies also show, online interactions cannot independently work without the offline activities. Individuals that succumb to tribalism and sectarianism in the real social environment may contaminate the youths mind, and the online platform reinforces it to the degree that it could instigate open violence, in the other.

Thus, pertinent bodies have to keep on demonstrating that political differences are normal, and that there is chance to narrow down differences. Similarly, religious leaders' ongoing unity of idea in promoting peace has to gather further momentum. They need to continue with mending intra-faith fractures and stand exemplary in promoting inter-faith harmony.

Media people and educational institutions share similar boundary in that both have purposes of educating the society, the youths in this case. Both are platform to informed debates. These important institutions should tackle the three bugs sooner than later.

We, more than ever, need to create youths that are critical and rational. These do not come out of the blue. They are the result of deliberate hard work.

"The youths should grasp the spirit of unity, love, tolerance, respect and rationality and we all are duty bound to nurture the generation with these ideals," as Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed said when delivering speech to the youth at Millennium Hall in Addis Ababa. Unless the social media is checked wisely, the ideals are hard to come by!

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