By Justine Namara
During the 2017 annual social media conference held at Serena Hotel in Kampala recently, the increased and widespread use of social media platforms and their effects were widely debated. While social media use has grown drastically over all age groups, the adult age groups are still lagging behind as far as embracing the new networking tools is concerned.
As communication is getting easier and cheaper, and exciting for the younger generation, the adults are still stuck to traditional phone calls and emails. There are cases where a mother is being taught by her son how to join Facebook or in some cases she gets to learn that there is a new phone application like WhatsApp that enables one to send messages to almost all his phone contacts for as cheap as shs 200.
Speaking at the Uganda Social Media conference that was held at Serena Hotel, Dr Patricia Litho, the head of communication at Rural Electrification Agency pointed out that the biggest percentage of older people learn the new networking platforms from the younger generation. She admits to having learnt how to use WhatsApp from her 9 year old son who had to take her step by step.
It is fair to say that owning a phone does not guarantee social media usage. There is a group of young people in my village who are on Facebook and are always active on the site using their parents phones, thanks to telecom companies that enable social media use cheap like Facebook zero.
Social media is cheaper?
Ian Ortega, the CEO and co founder of an online site CampusEye brings it to our attention that it is because social media is cheaper than any other means of communication.
"For example the youth engage more on these platforms because they do not have to worry about spending a lot. it is not only the monetary costs that are there to worry about while young people are engaging on social media, there is the fact that they do not have much to worry about regulation and having to account to anyone about how much they post on social media. Besides, there is no serious ethic considerations involved," he says.
Uganda as a country having a challenge of many unemployed young people, there is an advantage of struggling and upcoming businessmen sharing their merchandise with their followers on Facebook and twitter and sharing with their WhatsApp contacts.
"I will be randomly scrolling on Facebook and WhatsApp and get to see pictures of an accident that happened along a certain road without having to wait for the 9'Oclock NTV new. My Techo phone brings everything to me in the shortest time," says Ivan Sema, 25, a social media user.
Do we have to conclude that younger people are more informed than older ones because of social media? That is another topic for another day.
On the other hand though, the adults seem to be much concerned that since there is no strict regulation on the use of social media, these young people are misusing these platforms and are highly involved in socially unacceptable conducts.
Ofwono Opondo the Government spokes person and the Executive Director of Uganda Media centre expressed his fears that young people, probably unemployed, are using social media as a platform for extortion. They exchange manipulative information and pictures and at the end of the day, before one realizes, they have been hoodwinked and robbed.
The Uganda social media conference is an annual programme which is organized by the Uganda country office of the Konrad-Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) which aims to bring together key stakeholders from government, civil society, academia and the media to have a constructive exchange on the impact of social media on the state and society, highlighting both opportunities and challenges.