Social media for peace!

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Social media is a powerful tool. It has been used to carry out revolutions and overthrow dictators. But at the core of it social media is about communication with others who share friendships, values, ideals, same stories etc. As the name implies social media is social.

Social media refers to the means of interactions among people in which they create share, exchange and comment useful information among themselves in virtual communities and networks. According to Kietzmann, social media employ mobile and web-based technologies to create highly interactive platforms via which individuals and communities share, concrete, discuss, and modify user-generated content. It introduces substantial and pervasive changes to communication between organizations, communities and individuals (Heinonen, 2008).

Social media can be also be a tool for development. In the last couple of years in Kenya we have seen how social media has been used to develop communities. Kenyans4Kenyans is a campaign which caught fire on social media and people encouraged others to contribute or do something to avert a disaster in which Kenyans in Turkana were dying for lack of food and water. The amount of money that was raised through the campaign was staggering. The other day we had CarPoolKe in which Red Cross Kenya and others mobilized drivers to give lifts to strangers who were stranded by the matatus strikes (acting as good Samaritans). We have also had video campaigns to pass the peace message like U film it where people filmed peace videos to encourage others to keep the peace. There is also a campaign right now by Kenyan Rotary and Rotaract clubs to get a million signatures in order to convince the government to put peace studies in the curriculum for schools in the Umeclick campaign. So social media can be used to do great things.
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I am abit concerned though at this time when Kenya is waiting to have the next election in 2013. Five years ago we blamed leaders, individuals and the mainstream media for stirring ethic hatred by words that they said or images that were shown. Right now though there are many individuals on social media doing the same and no one seems to be alarmed. I think it is time for us as social media citizens to realize that we have a responsibility to keep the peace and not encourage some of these things on social media. When we post or repost things on social media to incite our fellow tribesmen or social group to think in hateful terms towards other people we are not doing ourselves or our country a favor.

We should be using social media to pass across the message of peace and reconciliation. It doesn’t matter what political party we belong to. The most important thing is that there is peace before and after elections. It does not help when we insult others for believing in what they believe or for supporting a certain politician. When you tell others that you will not have a conversation with them because they don’t support your political candidate what exactly are you saying? We have started building camps them against us. And for what? For politicians who have tea together and play golf together. We need to have maturity and realize that this country is bigger then any of us, bigger then any political candidate, bigger then this election of 2013. That kind of thinking is the type that made people so angry last election because they had invested emotionally in winning that they became violent when they didn’t win.

Social media is a powerful tool. Let us use it to bring people together to develop the nation. To encourage politicians to do the right thing and to question their past records of governance. To encourage citizens to fight for a better Kenya. We need more peace campaigns, more campaigns that bring people together instead of tearing people apart. Let’s not use social media for name calling or divide people along tribal, social, or political lines. Let’s be responsible with our social media use. It’s important to know that there is something called hate speech and you can be taken to court for the things that you say on social media. Just because you are on social media doesn’t mean that you are not accountable for what you say. Let’s use social media to build bridges of peace.

“You can have peace. Or you can have freedom. Don’t ever count on having both at once.”
― Robert A. Heinlein

“Let the first act of every morning be to make the following resolve for the day:
– I shall not fear anyone on Earth.
– I shall fear only God.
– I shall not bear ill will toward anyone.
– I shall not submit to injustice from anyone.
– I shall conquer untruth by truth. And in resisting untruth, I shall put up with all suffering.”
― Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches

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