It is incredible to think about how far social media has come. A little under a decade ago, social media platforms seemed to be the domain of highshoolers and college kids. Early on you could not even have a Facebook account without having a college email. To go from that to becoming the engine of revolution in places like Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and the rest of the Arab world is simply incredible. Dictators that had held power since the Cold War era—like Mubarak and Ben Ali—were brought down by coordinated action via Twitter and Facebook. And now Venezuelan protesters are utilizing social media for similar ends.
Social media has also been making a strong impression on the developing world. In fact, though the U.S. may have begun the social networking trend, there are many other nations—developing nations—that lead the United States in using social media platforms. A study conducted by Pew Research Center last year found that in America 73% of Internet users use social networking sites. The study also found that 17 developing countries exceed this percentage: Egypt, Russia and the Philippines, Tunisia, Indonesia, Jordan, Venezuela, Nigeria, Turkey, Ghana, Mexico, Chile, Malaysia, Kenya, Argentia, El Salvador and Senegal.
Social networking has been making its way into Sub-Saharan Africa, a part of the world that could greatly benefit from this medium. Right now, most Americans only hear about this region through news stories that are all too often only covering the bad events that occur. Social media allows for a less official, more casual avenue for information and dialogue between our distant societies. Since news outlets often skip over positive yet mundane stories—such as China working with the Republic of the Congo to put the latter’s entire country on the electrical grid or a new club opening in Pointe-Noire—African nations like Republic of the Congo can harness social media to connect directly with people who’d like to know a little more them.
The Republic of the Congo would especially benefit from greater Internet presence of this sort. The Western public image of Central Africa is too often negative. People of the U.S. hear about the current turmoil in the Central African Republic or faintly recall the past Rwandan Genocide, but nothing in between. Social media would allow much greater interaction between the citizens of the Republic of the Congo and those of the world. The Congolese President—Denis Sassou Nguesso—has taken advantage of this medium for connecting with his people and the world at large, utilizing networks like Google+ and, most notably, Twitter (he is one of the most active African leaders on the site). Through these channels, President Nguesso has informed the world of his country’s advance in economic development, hosting the BUILD Africa Forum with fellow Central African nations; he announced the inauguration of the construction of the Olympic village for 2015’s Pan African Games. Rather than pass through news channels, these great feats could be conveyed directly to the people via social media networks.
There is another major use for social media in the ROC: greater interaction via social media would help clear up the fact that the Republic of the Congo is quite different from the D. Republic of the Congo. Millennials/Generation Y—the demographic that created Facebook and ‘made’ social media what it is—grew up in the 90s knowing the D. Republic of the Congo as Zaire. Social media interaction could be used to remind them of the differences between the Congos.