‘FOREIGN EXCHANGE’; THE EFFECT OF SOCIAL MEDIA ON AFRICAN CULTURE
It has been said that we live in different times, an era far from anything that our fore-fathers could fathom. The advancement of technology has skyrocketed beyond previous predictions and without doubt if one is not inclined to the ever moving bullet train of technology the chances of being left behind is very certain. The world was fascinated by the ‘jet age’ but presently with the advent of the media age the world has been brought at its knees with the whole idea of distance and boundaries being dissolved to nothing. As different worlds caress each other in the exchange of cultures and ideologies the world is being fused into a single entity with very little fluctuating differences in between.
The most effective tool of globalization is the social media. About fifteen years ago, no one believed that the idea of communicating with anyone in the world at one’s own convenience would be possible, or at the rate it is now, however it is a phenomenon that has come to stay. One can safely say that the social media is the palate with which globalization uses to mix all the peoples of the world together in order to produce a masterpiece-a universal culture.
With the ever evolving propagandist machinery that the Western world generates one is forced to look at it from an African perspective. Is the social media sensation eroding African culture or is it a platform for spreading it just as the West has successfully done?
Just as everything ever created, the social media has its pros and cons and for a developing society like Africa one can clearly see both sides of the coin. On one hand the presence of social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Youtube set the stage for Africans to display our rich and vibrant culture with the entire world as the audience. With traces of our unique heritage in Music, Fashion, Art and so much more the world gets to see the real image of Africa. Artistes such as Davido and Wizkid of Nigeria, Diamond Platinumz of Tanzania, Sauti Sol of Kenya and Mafikizolo of South Africa have successfully used this platform to introduce a genre of African music that the entire world enjoys. There are countless examples that comes to mind but in the end we find Africans using this tool to gather worldwide recognition for our exceptional style and creativity.
Africans have developed a sense of pride in their culture so much so that they serve it up on the internet without regards to what anyone has to say about it. Numerous hashtags have trended over the years and Africans are so committed and are prepared to backlash anyone who tries to speak against their culture. For instance, the Jollof Wars brought the spotlight to a spectacular African dish so much so that the First ever Jollof Rice Competition was held in Washington DC. It seemed like a controversy but in the end, the entire world came to appreciate the fact that African meals are savory, delicious and reflect the particular soul of that particular community.
We have internationally acclaimed fashion designers using the African prints to showcase their collections at the New York Fashion Week this year. Its’ amazing how far a few YouTube videos have gone in portraying the elegance of the Ankara prints. It’s a phenomenon that the entire world has accepted. Although little or no credit goes to Africa, we all know that the social media has brought Africa to the limelight and set the stage for a revolution that cannot be stopped easily.
On the other hand, a larger number of Africans would argue that the social media has only fostered cultural imperialism, served as a tool to fuel ethnic antagonism and encouraged hate speech. In the second part of the article, the adverse effects of social media phenomenon are discussed.