Social media has no doubt become a very powerful tool and it has even revolutionized how we live our lives. People have found jobs, met soulmates ,started revolutions all at the click of a button. Social media has also led to defamation and slander, cyber bullying, fraud and even suicide. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of social media.

The good

Besides using social media to connect with people, many like myself also use it to network and find jobs. I have made several connections and even landed jobs by keeping my eyes peeled and joining groups that I know will help in advancing my career.

Social media managers were not that big of a deal five years ago but now it is a lucrative career that can get you paid per post ,tweet or picture uploaded. Vicky Kimani started doing social media management at a micro finance firm as an intern. She fell in love with it and branched out on her own . “Many people think that just by owning a Facebook or Twitter account you can be a social media manager but what really makes the difference is strategies and professionalism.”

Starting out for any entreprenuer can be expensive venture but not so much if you earn a living from social media. “The fact that all I needed was a computer and Internet to begin my own company was exciting. Seeing my company go from unknown to a trusted brand online is what I am aiming for and it is good knowing that I played a part in that. In the beginning I did not get paying clients but I stuck at it and I was really happy when I got my first pay cheque.”

Not so long ago if you were an activist you needed to gather a group of people, design placards, strategise on routes to use and basically spend lot of time in organizing the protest. Now all it takes is a phone and an internet connection to start a hashtag on Twitter and get people engaged after which you will have managed to not only get people’s attention but also ensure that some action is taken. The story of a woman by the name of Fatuma sparked outrage after her husband stabbed her in the cheek after a domestic dispute. This led to the creation of a hashtag #justiceforFatuma which led to not only gettting  medical attention for Fatuma but also getting her husband prosecuted for the vicious crime.

The #147notjustanumber  started by Ory Okolloh Mwangi was started  as a way of not only allowing people to grieve  but more so to remember each one of the victims as young people whose dreams were cut short too soon. It culminated in a memorial concert in April 2015 held at the Freedom Corner in April that brought Kenyans from all walks of life together.

Last year the ‘Start a Library‘ initiative  was  launched as a means of using digital crowd sourcing to develop a book while raising money that will go towards building 100 libraries for primary schools in Kenya. The initiative utilized technology to rally Kenyans to go online and co-author the first ever collectively written book by a nation. They used the hashtag #StoryforChela for the campaign which was successful.

The #ElaniSpeaks went viral after discrepancies emerged over the royalties paid to them. This not only led to the issue trending but then culminated in a forum at PAWA 254 where musicians, MCSK (Music Copyright Society of Kenya) and other stakeholders discussed at length the problems encountered in the industry and their solutions thereof #MusicandMoney KE.

Traditional media such as radio and newspapers are now reliant on new media to keep abreast with current and breaking news. It is a common sight nowadays to see a topic that has been trending on social media being picked up by the mainstream media. In most cases by the time a story has gone on air you probably heard about it first from social media.

The bad

I am sure by now that you have probably heard or seen jokes and memes about the Eritrea saga of men being ordered to marry two wives or face imprisonment. This situation apparently has been due to the shortage of men which turned out to be a hoax. Eritreans eventually got wind of the story and they were not amused to say the least. What is sad is that people actually believed the story to be true and some in places as far as Nigeria were sharing links to Eritrea’s visa application documents. The story was run on a segment known as Crazy Monday to pull a younger audience which it did but at a cost. Now the reputable paper is being referred to as a tabloid.

A week ago, bloggers were arrested for an alleged number of offences ranging from posting pictures of slain KDF soldiers, to posting tweets that were deemed unlawful to by the government. This sparked outrage from the online community due to the fact that they felt that the government was trampling their freedom of expression as enshrined in the constitution. Fortunately all the bloggers have been released after the DPP’s office found their charge sheets to be defective. Actually a  case has been filed challenging the particular section of the the KICA ACT used to intimidate bloggers as it is deemed to be unconstitutional.

We remember the #MyDressMyChoice debate that began after women were stripped in public by large groups of men for being ‘indecent’. Videos of the stripping went viral not only on platforms like Facebook  and Twitter but even in Whatsapp groups. People thought they were helping by sharing the videos and commenting on them  not knowing that instead of helping the situation they were traumatizing the victims more. This is because the victims not only had to deal with the psychological trauma of the attacks but with the shame that many people probably saw the video.

A meme is a humorous image, video, piece of text,  that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users. In the year 2015  BBC World Asia ran a story about a Taiwanese model who was cast by an ad agency to advertise a plastic surgery clinic. The photo showed very attractive “parents” with sought-after big eyes and long, well-defined noses, and their three “children”, their images altered to make their eyes look exceptionally small and their noses flat. The caption read: “The only thing you’ll ever have to worry about is how to explain it to the kids. The ad agency put up the image on their Facebook  page. Before long, the photo made its way across the internet, with a new caption: “Plastic surgery – you can’t hide it forever”. The picture went viral and had different captions in different languages all over the world that resulted in her losing modelling jobs, her fiance and of course her peace of mind due to that picture. She has tried unsuccessfully to sue for damages but the agency says that they have no control over how the internet operates.


The ugly

If you are like me you most likely detest seeing pictures of diseased individuals on your News Feed with the caption ‘TYPE AMEN’ for them to get healing. Apart from that there are also people who have a tendency to post pictures of dead bodies to ‘raise awareness’ on the horrors of war taking place. I was a victim of such an unfortunate incident when a friend of mine posted dead bodies of civilians who were killed in the chaos that erupted in Burundi after their elections. One of my friends on facebook whom I suspect came across the same ghastly pictures posted on his wall that he would unfriend anyone who shared such pictures.

There is also the danger of being tagged in pornographic material in the form of a link, video or picture. Most of the times you have no idea that the link is on your platform unless someone alerts you of the same. The danger of using the internet is that alot of your information is in the public domain and hackers can hack your account ,con people ,spread malware or just be downright malicious and spoil your name just because they can.

Twitter wars are becoming vicious as well. A popular TV presenter ,Larry Madowo, knows this too well when he was insulted on Twitter for apparently ‘disrespecting’ Raila Odinga. The comments were so vicious and life threatening that he had to record a statement with the police as he feared for his life.

One thing that many people forget is that the internet never forgets and it is up to you to be careful that whatever you put online is not something that you will regret later on. There are cases where people have lost jobs due to facebook or twitter posts so there is a need to be careful. Just like any other tool of communication ensure to use it wisely.