Human relationships used to be easy and quite simple; you had real friends, boy- or girlfriends, real parents, siblings, children, jobs, and landlords. Now thanks to social media, it’s all gone south. People create all sorts of facades in the name of their ‘realities’. Well, landlords are still as real as they come. The unassailable fact is that social media has performed a U-turn on our perception of reality. It has injected into our existence two distinct doses; a breath of fresh air, and a fatal dose of irreversible ruin. Depending on how you decide to use it of course, or how you decide to let it use you. The JKUAT’s Social Media and Customer Relations Department (SMCR) played host to the 8th Edition of SOMA Connect, whose theme centered on ‘Harnessing Social Media Opportunities.’
SOMA (Social Media) Connect is a platform that organizes different social media events that help create awareness and positive impact on individuals and organizations. One of its main objectives is to promote positive use of social media especially among the youth and in institutions. Their partnership with the SMCR Department therefore promised a no mean feat to the students and staff alike that turned up for the session. Speakers in the event included one Philip Ogola, the founder of Digital Humanitarian, Jaymo Ule Msee, a Digital Creative, Ms Nelly Ndonye, Head of Ringier Digital Marketing Kenya (RDM) and Robert Burale, a Motivational Speaker.
Giving her opening remarks at the event held in the University Assembly Hall, the Head of the SMCR Department, Mrs. Dorothy Kahenya emphasized the significant role that Social Media can play in the lives of students. ‘Social Media is a powerful tool, which when well utilized, can give you limitless opportunities,’ she opined. The intensive two-hour session that followed featured a variety of topics presented by speakers as well as a panel session where the speakers engaged the audience in a question and answer session.
In his presentation to the students on the importance of exploiting the opportunities that Social Media presents, Robert Burale’s assertion could not have been any clearer. ‘You can never recover time. At the age of 80, you will still have the gift of breakdancing, but it will be all in your head. The gift will be there, but the body will refuse to dance to the tune of the gift.’ So what talents are you currently sitting on? What opportunity do you have in the Digital Media space that you’re not yet exploiting? Nelly Ndonye echoed the sentiments, stating the importance of defining one’s brand, and having a strategy to effectively manage it. So can you monetize social media? Definitely, and for students, it is possible to work and learn at the same time. But in her words, it requires time, dedication, consistency, sacrifice and patience.
Speaking matters content development, Jaymo Ule Msee further elaborated on the significance of consistency, especially for those who are using social media for commercial purposes. Facebook is a channel for everyone, and everyone has a digital license to do whatever they want to. ‘It is what you choose to do that determines your brand, identity and success,’ he adds.
In this digital generation, whatever you post, share, like, tweet, retweet, double tap or react to in any way is a reflection of who you are. This makes the voyage through social media a very delicate process but that requires a very simple tool to navigate; common sense. Philip Ogola adds that social media is good. But it is a double edged sword. It can make or break someone else. It is therefore very important to keep this in mind. All you need to do is put yourself in the shoes of bereaved family members before deciding to post graphic photos of their kins who have perished in a road accident, all in the guise of ‘it is news, and people need to know.’ I am a journalist by profession, and I understand that ‘bad news is good news’ for our business, but such situations is where common sense should come to the rescue of a brain threatening to recede into oblivion.
The same line of thought applies to what you decide to share on your social media accounts. It is none of our business that you’re travelling to Nairobi or back to the countryside. It is none of our business that you bought a new 48-inch Smart Sony TV, or as my lakeside friends would call it, ‘a state of the art fully integrated entertainment network.’ It is none of our business that you just bought a new house, and of course you don’t have to stick all your Dubai holiday photos to our faces. You delivered a bouncing baby boy or baby girl? Amazing news! But you don’t have to daily update their growth and development on Instagram! And not just that, the online community has no business knowing your problems and insecurities. You broke up with your man and now you’re convinced all men are dogs? We respect your convictions but keep it to yourself. A lady you loved turned out to be a gold-digger and now you think all ladies are only interested in money? Nigga please. I am by no chance trying to curtail your freedom of expression, but all these boil down to one thing; online safety. It is dangerously easy for someone to profile you and target you based on what you carelessly share and post on your accounts. This therefore demands more than just common sense, it demands emotional intelligence.
Perhaps the most vocal message throughout the session from all the speakers was that Social Media is your CV. What you post can make or break you professionally. Does the thought of your current or potential boss going through your social media scare you? According to Philip, your online presence says a lot about you, and your digital footprints can haunt you, when and where it matters most. I mean if you can perfectly execute your own self-destruction in just 140 characters, why should a potential employer entrust you with anything for that matter?
Social media is definitely the ultimate equalizer. It gives a voice and platform to anyone willing to engage. But it is by no chance a platform for validating your existence. What is clear though, are the limitless opportunities it presents, ranging from opening commercial frontiers, an avenue for self or organizational branding, economic empowerment, and the amazing gift of connecting with millions of people, of course within the bounds of common sense.