Nigeria: The Youths, Tyranny of the Social Media and Effects On National Development

12 December 2018

Being a lecture delivered by Member Representing Bende North Constituency and Deputy of Speaker, Abia House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Cosmos Ndukwe Phd, during the first Distinguished Personality Lecture, organised by the Faculty of Arts, University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN).

When Marshal McLuhan, a Canadian Professor of English Language and a philosopher of communication theory propounded the theory of the global village, all he had in mind was a world where "anything that is happening anywhere, would be happening everywhere". He envisaged that without prejudice to the existing media of communication, the world would someday become a virtual community, made easier by the uses and applications of communication technology.

McLuhan envisaged a technology just like the Internet, though he did not use the term, and therefore could not have imagined the scale of the negative uses of the internet. His intention was not for the proposed technology to supplant or become tyrannical to existing media of communication or to create a world where stalking, blackmail, harassment and virtual impropriety would become the order of the other. He meant well and wished a world made more peaceful and bound in love through communication activities. This was in 1962 in his book The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic man (Odii 2013:161).

McLuhan only imagined that someday, the users of technology would be availed devices that would break barriers across national and international boundaries, that billions of people across the world would be separated by mere availability of data and no longer by millions of nautical miles. True to his speculation, billions of us are now connected, we enjoy the closeness and near affinity of kith and kin of a village, all thanks to the Internet and its sister devices. Many of us have visited several countries, at least in the virtual sense. With our computer-embedded devices and very affordable phones, we have interacted widely, we read newspapers stories online and have the rare privilege of being read or heard without much ado. The global village concept might have sounded strange and incredible then, but it has come full circle now, with the reality and "magic" of the social media. The social media have reduced the world to a global family, thus recreating the public sphere pattern of the primitive era in which people gathered in the village squares to discuss issues affecting them, in a participatory, interactive and democratic manner. (Odii2013: 161).

As already indicated, the Internet arrived with many sides to its uses. Kahn and Cerf (1990:15) cited in Udende and Azeez (2010) argued that as we were approaching the new millennium, the Internet was revolutionizing our society, our economy, and our technological system. No one knows for certain how far, or in what direction, the Internet will evolve, but no one should underestimate its importance. Regrettably, the major beneficiaries of these modern communication tools, the youths, may have either refused or neglected to open their minds to the innumerable advantages of these tools. Scholars believe strongly that no matter the odds, the most potent positive effect of the social media is the democratization of the internet (Kaplan Andreas M.; Haenlein Michael, 2010).

Unfortunately, the internet seems to have democratized youth tyranny more than anything. In today's world, we are confronted with internet plague. We have countless addicts of the social media who ignore decency and standard rules of practice, throw caution to the winds and pollute the blogosphere with unbridled hate, tyranny and take undue advantage of the near absence of censorship provided by myriads of social media applications.

The youth have proved again and again that they are central to the advancement or annihilation of any worthy cause. They are excited by trends whether fashion or technology. Perhaps, that explains why most social media applications are tailored to suit their preferences. Unbeknown to them, they have become the willing tools for either pains or gains depending on their degree of gullibility.

Today we have a plethora of social media platforms, namely, Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, WeChat, Facebook Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, Twitter, Instagram, Whatsapp, LinkedIn, Facetime, IMO and a wide range of others. These platforms are necessarily designed to create content to empower users, boost social marketing, inspire positive effects of individual's collective memory, fulfillment of perceived social needs, and mobilization for health issues towards national development.

However, we also know that the platforms have become tyrannical and inimical to these mentioned causes. The reason for the tyranny is the focus of this paper.

We will certainly look at the place of the youth, either as victims of technology advancement or poor messenger of diffusion of innovation. The paper will also attempt to evaluate why the advantage of relationship management (Edegoh, Asemah and Ekanem 2013:205) has been relegated to the background;why sharing media product (Froget, Abba and Yasha 2013:14) is no longer for its credibility quotient and why the friendship value (Foster, Francescsucci and Wesr 2009:6) attached to social networking has turned to a tool of vendetta.

Theoretical Framework

This paper derives largely from two theoretical frameworks namely:

A. Technology Acceptance Model (TAM)

B. Diffusion of Innovation Theory Technology Advancement Model (TAM)

The Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) is an information systems theory that models how users come to accept and use a technology. The model, propounded by Davis (1989), suggests that when users are presented with a new technology, a number of factors influence their decision about how and when they will use it, notably:

Perceived usefulness (PU) - This was defined by Davis as "the degree to which a person believes that using a particular system would enhance his or her job performance".

Perceived ease-of-use (PEOU) - Davis defined this as "the degree to which a person believes that using a particular system would be free from effort" (Davis 1989)

Obviously, the popularity of the social media particularly among our teeming youths finds explanation in the perceived usefulness of the social media and perhaps most significantly, its perceived ease of application. Thus, the concept of perceived ease of application according to Agbo (2015) refers to the extent to which a user hopes that use of the new system would be simple and free from constraints. In this model, Davis presupposes that there is a relationship between an individual's propensities to accept and use a new technology and his perceptions to the system.

The TAM Model helped this paper to unravel the mystery behind the ease with which the youths have freely, without let or hindrance, taken the social media by storm. If the social media have become a fertile ground for the incubation of tyranny, it is perhaps largely because it is easy to use in many different ways, more convenient and accessible to a large number of people.

Diffusion of Innovation Theory

The original diffusion research was done as early as 1903 by the French Sociologist Gabriel Tarde who plotted the original S-shaped diffusion curve. Tarde's 1903 S-shaped curve is of current importance because "most innovations have an S-shaped rate of adoption" (Rogers, 1995).

Diffusion research centers on the conditions which increase or decrease the likelihood that a new idea, product, or practice will be adopted by members of a given culture. Diffusion of innovation theory predicts that media as well as interpersonal contacts provide information and influence opinion and judgment. Studying how innovation occurs, Rogers (1995) argued that it consists of four stages: invention, diffusion (or communication) through the social system, time and consequences. The information flows through networks. The nature of networks and the roles opinion leaders play in them determine the likelihood that the innovation will be adopted. Innovation diffusion research has attempted to explain the variables that influence how and why users adopt a new information medium, such as the Internet. Opinion leaders exert influence on audience behaviour via their personal contact, but additional intermediaries called change agents and gatekeepers are also included in the process of diffusion. Diffusion is the "process by which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over a period of time among the members of a social system". An innovation is "an idea, practice, or object that is perceived to be new by an individual or other unit of adoption" (Rogers 1995).

This theory helped a great deal in explaining how the social media conferred the status of change agents on the youths and how they have been able to effect a change in the narratives albeit in a seeming preposterous manner.

Understanding the Concepts of Youth, Social Media, Tyranny and National Development Youth

It is almost certain that if there is any word or concept that has been gravely misunderstood, it is the word "youth". Until we appreciate the real import of this word "youth", we may continue to either miss our target audience or be lost in illusion. This is because youth as a term is often first defined by age, which tends to eclipse other forces of youthfulness.

The United Nations, for statistical purposes, defines 'youth', as those persons between the ages of 15 and 24 years, without prejudice to other definitions by Member States. The UN also recognized that, apart from that statistical definition, the meaning of the term 'youth' varies in different societies around the world. When the General Assembly, by its resolution 50/81 in 1995, adopted the World Programme of Action for Youth to the Year 2000 and beyond, it reiterated that the United Nations defined youth as the age cohort of 15-24.

The Commonwealth defines youth as 15-29 years of age. The African Youth Charter defines youth as "any individual between 15-35 years of age and seeks to resolve longstanding debates about defining youth within the African context and based on Africa's development realities." The Nigerian National Youth Policy (p.6) defines youth as anyone between the age of 18 and 35.

Generally speaking, people the ages of 15 and 35 have distinct character traits. These traits which include energy, resourcefulness, creativity, ingenious disposition, inquisitiveness, boldness and unfortunately vulnerability make them the cynosure of all eyes. It is pertinent to observe that their minds, as fertile as they are, become a laboratory for the incubation and crystallization of all forms of innovations, including but not limited to internet driven ones.

Social Media

The Social Media to me is the forerunner of Marshall McLuhan's concept of global village. Thus, it could correctly be viewed as the use of various internet based applications like Tweeter, Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, IMO, Flicker, 2go, Badoo, Facetime, Xender just to mention but a few for improved social interaction, relationship management, citizen journalism aimed at shrinking the world to a virtual community for the purpose of education, entertainment and information.

Social Media is a term that encompasses the platforms of New Media, but also implies the inclusion of systems like FriendFeed, Facebook, and other things typically thought of as social networking. The idea is that they are media platforms with social components and public communication channels.

Merriam Webster Dictionary (https://www.merriam- media retrieved November 13, 2018) defines Social Media as forms of electronic communication (such as websites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (such as videos).

Based on Africa's development realities." The Nigerian National Youth Policy (p.6) defines youth as anyone between the age of 18 and 35.

Generally speaking, people the ages of 15 and 35 have distinct character traits. These traits which include energy, resourcefulness, creativity, ingenious disposition, inquisitiveness, boldness and unfortunately vulnerability make them the cynosure of all eyes. It is pertinent to observe that their minds, as fertile as they are, become a laboratory for the incubation and crystallization of all forms of innovations, including but not limited to internet driven ones.


Observers have noted a range of positive and negative impacts of social media use. Social media can help to improve an individual's sense of connectedness with real or online communities, and can be an effective communication (or marketing) tool for corporations, entrepreneurs, nonprofit organizations, advocacy groups, political parties, and governments. At the same time, concerns have been raised about possible links between heavy social media use and depression, and even the issues of cyberbullying, online harassment and "trolling". Currently, about half of young adults have been cyberbullied, and of those, 20% said that they have been cyberbullied regularly ("Cyberbullying Statistics". Retrieved November 13, 2018). Another survey applied the Precaution Process Adoption Model to cyberbullying on Facebook among students. According to this study, 69% of students claim to have experienced cyber bullying, and they also said that it was worse than face-to-face bullying (Chapin, 2016). Both the bully and the victim are negatively affected, and the intensity, duration, and frequency of bullying are the three aspects that increase the negative effects on both of them (Peebles, 2014).


Generally speaking, according to the Collins Dictionary; tyranny refers to a cruel, harsh, and unfair government in which a person or small group of people has power over everyone else. It is also the cruel, unreasonable, or arbitrary use of power or control.

The social media user who is at liberty to mine data, move unrestricted from one social network site to another, push posts or comments to go viral, stalk another unimpeded and unfortunately bully others arbitrarily, has enormous powers which he could use in the most cruel, unreasonable and harsh manner is tyranny personified. It is important to note that since the social media offers little or no window for effective censorship, users abuse the democratization of the Internet.

National Development

Development according to the United Nations Development programme (UNDP) is the process of enlarging people's choices - lead a long and healthy life, to be educated, to enjoy a decent standard of living, political freedom, other guaranteed human rights and various ingredients of self respect (UNDP, 1997, p.15). Development could also be referred to as the improvement of the individual in important useful ways (Nwanne 2012:241).

The concept of National Development begins to make sense when citizens of a State are developed (Ochongor & Ikpegbu, 2017:178-179). Put simply, it is that qualitative and quantitative approach to development of the citizens that offers them the opportunity to be their best self.


Agreed that the social media offers a plausible opportunity for the democratization of the Internet, it does not in any way presuppose that the user would go on tyranny spree. True, development is the improvement of the individual in important useful ways. The internet should be an agent of development. Unfortunately, this development has come with the following negative aspects of the use of the internet, especially the social media.

1.The act of revenge pornography where a Facebook user distributes via the Facebook, sexually explicit images or video of individuals without their permission.

2.Creating a Whatsapp online news platform with the primary objective of stalking a particular individual or group with the possibility that false publications could be shared within seconds by billions of unsuspecting social media users.

3. Impersonating another individual whose name or position could attract patronage with the intent to defraud or deceive other social media users who would be dealing with you like they would have if it were the person you are personating. Today, virtually all celebrities "have" hundreds of social media accounts emanating from fraudsters, conmen and stalkers who invade the social blogosphere, taking advantage of the freedom provided by social networking

4.Distribution of hate speeches, corroborated falsely with either cloned or photoshopped images with the intention to promote disaffection among groups and or individuals. It is even more depressing to realize that often times, the internet which does not forget will continue to feature these disparaging stories in newsfeeds outside the control and reach of the originator.

5. Stealing strategic intellectual property without recourse to the original authors. This they do because it does appear that the social media have little or no mechanism for the protection of patents and copyrights. It is even more disgusting imagining that these intellectual property go far and wide, copied and used severally without credit to the author who expectedly deployed mental resources to do the work.

6.Announcing the obituaries of people who are still living just to either cause hardship to them or their loved ones.

7.Doing stories with images from another country, state or local government just to score cheap political goals, disparage a leader or give impression of non-performance. You do this bearing in mind how wide messages on social media could reach people and how hard it is to refute or counter such negative and damaging stories.

8.You change your 'gender' at will. Today, you are a boy on Facebook and the next day you are a girl on Instagram, with dubious promise to marry or enter such other contractual agreements with your split identity.

9.You open a virtual shop with the intent of not selling anything in real life, increasing the issues of trustworthiness and loss of confidence, fast becoming the greatest undoing of social marketing.

10. You blackmail other users, harass and bully them because you hide under the cloak of a social networking group that makes it difficult to unmask your real identity.

It is tyranny when you abuse the powers that flow from the democratization of the internet using the social media platform. It is tyranny when your "phone' or "computer" suddenly becomes a "Weapon of Mass Destruction".


We have already established that citizen development inadvertently means national development. This will hardly happen when instead of harvesting economic gains that accrue from aggressive social marketing, we harvest losses that are products of fraud. Our growth as a people is stagnated when all the data mined are saved for stalking and for harassment instead of applying them for effective health plans and security enhancement. Tyranny soils our ability to build confidence while eroding the amount of trust available to us as diligent and honest community people. It is yet to be seen how being a purveyor of fake Facebook news can add value to national development. It is also yet to be seen how generating deceitful content can aid social marketers or custodians of the National Planning policy.

Social Media tyranny is a dangerous deficit to National Development. It is even ironical when the youths, the widely acclaimed agents of change become the same group that wave this hand of self-destruction, harbingers of doubt and instruments for the enhancement of all indices of stunted growth. We are thus not more developed, at least in 21st Nigeria, than the character of the over 70 million users of the various social media platforms available to users in Nigeria. We become identified by our ranking on Internet fraud christened "G" or its twin "G+". It is only a sad commentary of a country whose 18-35 year olds may have become evil agents of the diffusion of the social media innovation.


From the foregoing, it is already a given that the social media, the dream of Marshal McLuhan's concept of the global village is designed to be a catalyst for national development, the negative effects notwithstanding. While they avail the user enormous powers, they also present themselves as agents of harshness, cruelty and arbitrariness. The Nigerian youth thus finds himself as an unprepared, but ready tyrant who despises even that which gifted him with such enormous powers. Ironically, as bad as it seems, it would be difficult to diminish the very positive effects of the social media. The snag however is that when the youths take to tyranny of the social media, national development is sacrificed, at least in terms of human (youth) resource and technology diffusion and use. The freedom of the social media is a consequence of the nature of that technology, not a reason for its misuse. Therefore, internet freedom is somewhat different from the freedom associated with social responsibility, which matches freedom with a duty to respect the rights of others and the need for social sanity.

Some Suggestions

It is important that we continue to underscore the relevance of the use of social media to our national life. While it may not be ideal to suggest anything that would tamper with the democratization of the internet, it would be necessary to recommend that:

a. The National Communications Commission (NCC) and other relevant agencies of government promote a regime that encourages operators and providers of Social Media applications to increase the regulation of contents generated by users to forestall abuse of powers. b. The Act on Cybercrime is treated with much more seriousness, including creating awareness on the spirit and letter of the Act cited as CYBERCRIMES

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