Hannah Wathoni Gathuru – Kenya

  • May 12, 2020 at 12:30 pm #2600
    Huong Nguyen

    Hannah Wathoni Gathuru
    In many ways, social media has enriched our lives by connecting and inspiring people. But there is a dark side as well. I am a Kenyan. My country experienced very tough elections back in 2007 which were ensued by post-election violence that carried on to the following year. The influence of social media was quite instrumental to the progression of the violence, as the youth propagated tribalism through sending hate videos out to people of different tribes alongside recording videos of them burning down property that belonged to those of a particular tribe. It was horrid and even recounting it easily breaks my heart. This eventually led to the destruction of property and worse still, the loss of lives of millions of people. It all started with a retweet from one individual. The hate perceived by one person was able to instigate a couple of others who then carried on the cycle spreading like a wildfire.
    Even today, we’re seeing the youth committing suicide because of cyberbullying. Just recently, we had a comedian publicly quit his career following countless accounts of cyberbullying. The effects he explained, not only affected him but also his wife, who consequently had a miscarriage due to stress during that period. Thankfully he had the support of major influencers in the entertainment industry as well many other Kenyans encourage him and come together to educate people on the effects of cyberbullying. However, I feel that it was not enough. Laws should be in place to control and bring order to online engagement. Just like most countries around the world, social media is popular with the young demographic. They need to be the ones behind the change.
    I believe that excessive use of social media is an addiction with extremes having similar effects to drug and substance abuse and addiction. For example, if a person is cyberbullied to depression, statistics have shown that most victims end up committing suicide. All the same, people compare what they have and accomplished, to the standards set by their peers on social media, regardless of the fact that what is portrayed on social media is at odds with their real life. This also leads to decadence just as much as drug addiction does. This is because we lose sight of the important things in life like showing gratitude for what one already has as well as doing away with important virtues such as hard work.
    Correspondingly, most young girls see it fit to find a man who can sponsor a lavish life for them, regardless of whatever price they have to pay in return, resulting in the extreme moral decadence of national values as well as personal values. The constant focus on the misguided and ill-informed ideas of success are mental distractions that cloud one’s judgement leading to reduced job and academic performance by wasting time. Millennials are more likely to value money, image, and fame over community, affiliation, and self-acceptance.
    In the most recent elections in Kenya, synonymous to chaotic, was characterised by fake news and misinformation due to the increased use of social media in the country. “Measuring whether and how ‘misinformation’ actually influences voters’ choices is difficult, but there were certainly a number of sites and campaign ads that were flagged by Kenyans and international organizations as using scaremongering tactics on social media to win votes ahead of the August 2017 elections,” Rebekka Rumpel, research assistant for the Africa program at think tank Chatham House, told CNBC via email.
    Be that as it may, we have more Kenyan influencers positively impacting the youth compared to those who foster a negative impact. Most of them use their platforms to instigate change in their communities. Examples include Janet Mbugua, a media icon who is vocal about ‘taboo topics’ like period shame to reduce the stigma in society and also empowers young girls to believe in themselves. Julie Gichuru who the first African woman to receive the Martin Luther King Salute to Greatness for peace advocacy drives African conversations on leadership and development and oversees the production of quality African content. She uses her platform to inspire both young men and women to become better leaders of tomorrow. She started ‘The Great Debaters Contest’ which runs in highschools and breeds young leaders.
    It is, however, safe to say that despite influencers in Kenya being of great value to the society and ambitious social warriors, most of them are women. There are not enough male influencers, and this can eventually have an impact on the social dynamics of the boychild. It would be encouraging to have influencers being vocal on positive use of social media, as well as more men using their social media platforms to encourage young men to know their value and their worth.
    All social media platforms do instigate narcissism. This is because everyone is trying to showcase what they have going on in their lives, especially now that the world is a global village meaning when one posts a picture, it could easily get traction boosting the person’s ego. Sometimes it doesn’t usually matter if what they posted was responsible content, due to the growing culture of liberalism. This definitely can be seen as seeking to bring attention to oneself. For example, we have people who specifically create accounts to troll others just to get attention while we have others, especially on Twitter, who purpose to have controversial tweets just to get traction that feeds their ego.
    On whether it is possible for youth to show the self-discipline to limit themselves to 2 hours a day on social media, indeed it is but it has to come from the individual. However, it really depends on a lot of factors, because if the person’s career is entirely based on their social media presence, limiting themselves to 2 hours would not be logical. The best approach would be to have the youth prioritize the important facets of their daily lives and the goals they want to achieve. This would ensure they direct their energy and effort to things that bring and add value to their lives and this would have a ripple effect on their use of social media.
    Aside from all the negative uses and effects of social media mentioned above, there is always the good that can come out of it. Last month, a campaign dabbed #530forWaruiri was started to help Joy Wairuri who was battling Acute Myeloid Leukemia, raise money to cater for a bone marrow transplant in India after the travel bans are lifted. Her story was really moving and when she needed an urgent donation of blood, people went out to donate blood and she was able to stabilize. It was beautiful to see how people came together to support her and her family, regardless of the situation brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

    As Nozipho Mbwanje put it, a personal brand is how you choose to live your values. She added that it is how the world consumes these said values and in turn, shapes an opinion on who the world thinks the person is. This is because whether we like it or not, people around us are constantly forming opinions about us. Through her webinar, I was challenged to stand out from the crowd and become distinguishable. To do this, I know now that I need to work on my values and translate them into my personal brand. Values are the bedrock of our moral compass. They are what we rely on when in doubt, to inform the decisions we make and the actions we take.
    I want to be a legal humanitarian who specifically advocates for the protection of the rights of refugees. This requires me to be empathetic at the very least, for me to be able to connect with the refugees and to get an understanding of what they go through. I want my personal brand to be consistent with my values, and so far so good. I will continue to use my platform and my resources to be of any help to people around me.
    To give a memorable presentation that sets you apart, one needs to have put in the effort to prepare adequately. While doing research on a particular topic, it is imperative that one includes their own understanding of the topic. This is especially important when presenting on topics that have already been discussed and extensively researched on, to avoid looking like you just copied another person’s work. For the appearance of the presentation, remain simple and go straight to the point and also be mindful of the minor things such as the font and colour of your text. When presenting your slides, be audible and confident, being careful not to rush through it as well as being too slow.
    Assuming I was an employer looking to hire a youth for an entry-level position, I would definitely check their social media. This is because one’s social media says a lot about who the person is and it would give me an idea of what the person’s values are. For example, if the person was promoting racism on their social media that would mean they would do the same at the workplace. This would definitely lead me to not shortlisting them in the first place. Their social media will also help me decipher if the person they claim to be is actually who they are on their social media. However, this would definitely be on a case to case basis.
    My panel was made up of 8 persons from 5 different universities. We came to a realisation that social media has become such a fundamental tool of communication, ultimately requiring us to be mindful of how we use it. We were in agreement with most of the rules and one of the key take-homes was that Social Media is not about getting as many people as possible to focus on you. A good number got introduced to practising the 4:1 Rule where for every post about yourself, make 4 posts about other people, events, updates, politics, the environment, etc. This was something they had not interacted with before.
    Even so, we had a heated discussion on the rule that proposed limiting one’s time on social media to no more than 2 hours a day. We could not come to a consensus on that but we agreed that it was easier to accept being willing to leave social media altogether for a few months if it is having a negative effect on your life.
    On the discussion around depression and excessive use of social media, we had one of us give an account of their own experience. He acknowledged that his depression was mainly influenced by the people he followed and the kind of friends he had, who would constantly push him to live beyond his means just to portray a certain image of their friend group on social media.
    Another person gave their own account on their journey with body positivity. It was interesting to realise that herd behaviour is such a huge contributing factor to body shaming, as everyone expects women especially to look a certain way. The internet has defined what should be regarded as beautiful; standards that are even supported by brands and corporates because they ‘sell more’. She explained that she decided to try and gain weight as much as possible, after she was labeled malnourished and unhealthy-looking. Thankfully, by taking a break from social media she was able to find peace with her body and do away with standards of beauty, accepting that we’re all beautiful and we should be comfortable in our bodies.

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