Can WhatsApp be a Social andor Security Alerts Tool? [opinion]

Easter season 2015 will remain memorable for years because I did something unthinkable!

I called mother and then called my old man wishing them a happy Easter break! They are the only two calls I made, though, to be fair, my brother called me on Easter Sunday.

Just like it was at Christmas and New Year 2015 all the Easter messages I received or sent were from social media platforms. This must be the case for many others in Uganda and elsewhere!

We have evolved into the so-called ‘look down’ generation. Whether it is in a taxi to work or returning home at end of day, walking to Usafi car park, drivers in a traffic jam or even during meetings, nearly everyone is looking down and typing away on their phones.

At the dinner table, your two or three phones are usually right there next to your fork. Bedtime is not just for sleeping, but a good time for sending texts, sharing experiences, photos, etc.

Interestingly, this craze has nothing to do with age. True, it is the youngsters that discovered the potential of social media, possibly because of the offer of cheaper ways in which to communicate. However, the field has been firmly encroached upon by their parents and grannies.

At my social club, it is no longer surprising to find groups of adult men looking down on their phone screens and chatting digitally instead of talking to each other after the 7pm news! Perhaps someday a study will be conducted to explore why many find it easier to communicate regularly with their 5,000 ‘followers’ on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram plus the 1,000 or so on your WhatsApp platform instead of talking to people seated right next to them.

Time will tell how social media plus other new technologies have changed our world and how we live. Monica Starke, of The Guardian group, argues that technology has even changed the way we love – not incrementally but constantly and rapidly!

However, there is no turning back now and for those out there who can afford a smart phone but are still resisting the urge to get one, they should reconsider. For example, Whatsapp, the mobile phone messaging service that has also introduced calls, has done wonders for my family, workmates, Rotary mates, etc.

I am now connected to my sister in London and two brothers in the US. It is only the stub- born one in South Africa who has insisted on staying behind the times, hence denying us his company regularly.

It is quite likely that WhatsApp may turn into a social and or security alerts tool very soon. Sometimes friends post photos when they are stuck in a traffic jam aising others to try alternative routes. Is this not wonderful? In the past, we would have to wait for the regular traffic updates after news bulletins.

It is like having a new cadre of WhatsApp or Twitter instant ‘reporters’ who rapidly take photos that go viral in just minutes. One could argue that this is Bukedde’s Agataliiko Nfuufu’s concept perhaps without the required professionalism. The downside is that we have a lot of irresponsible reporting.

And social media can be so distractive andor unproductive. If you belong to different groups, you may also receive the same message, especially chains, repeated endlessly sometimes by even the group members and this is tiring!

At the Uganda National Journalism Awards gala organised by the African Centre for Media Excellence, keynote speaker Ferial Haffajee, editor-in-chief of City Press in South Africa, articulated the challenge of social media against the traditional media houses whose sales and profits are going down.

How can newspapers and TV news broadcasts compete with the social platforms that are not regulated?

The telecommunications companies will probably survive the online social media onslaught possibly because Internet services are still expensive in Uganda plus their engagement with mobile money services, which are not even regulated as yet!

A white South Carolina police officer was arrested last week and charged with murder after shooting an unarmed black man who was running away from him. The officer had claimed that the victim posed a threat to him.

Unfortunately for him a passerby filmed what happened using his smart phone and the recording contradicts what the officer had reported! The policeman lied but at least the family of the dead man are indebted to a smart man who used his phone smartly.

As we approach elections day in 2016, we should all be armed with smart phones to record candidates’ speeches, promises, movements and everything else. Hopefully this will deter anyone who wishes to employ violence as a way of influencing the vote!

The author is one of the founding Kigo Thinkers

Source : The Observer


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