The recent trend of democratization and the advancement in the information and communication technology have created a lot of awareness on the global development towards the social media. This situation has recently attracted a huge interest from researchers particularly in the field of social sciences. The emergence of the social media in contemporary times is changing the face of governance and democracy. In spite of the deep-rooted cultures of secrecy in the polity particularly in the political and bureaucratic hierarchies, the social media as a trend is fast becoming a veritable tool for a transformational agenda for transparency and accountability which are the pillars of democracy and good governance. Apart from being a revolutionary tool, the social media surreptitiously appears to be a potential risk and threat to democracy. Based on the foregoing, this paper examines two main issues. First, social media and democracy; and second the emerging trend of social media and its threat to democracy. In view of the almost lack of regulation and censorship on the social media, the paper posits that democracy may further be undermined on a larger scale with far reaching consequences if stakeholders in the polity are not sensitized on the possible negative effect of the social media.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
1.6 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
1.7 OPERATIONAL DEFINITION OF TERMS
1.8 LIMITATION TO THE STUDY
CHAPTER TWO: LITERATURE REVIEW
2.2 SOCIAL MEDIA
2.3 SOCIAL MEDIA AND DEMOCRACY: THE NEXUS
2.4 SOCIAL MEDIA: A TREND IN DEMOCRATIC STATES
2.5 SOCIAL MEDIA: A THREAT TO DEMOCRACY
2.6 THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
CHAPTER THREE: RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
3.1 RESEARCH DESIGN
3.2 POPULATION OF THE STUDY
3.3 SAMPLE AND SAMPLING PROCEDURE
3.4 METHOD OF DATA COLLECTION
3.5 METHOD OF DATA ANALYSIS
CHAPTER FOUR: DATA ANALYSIS, INTERPRETATION AND DISCUSSION
CHAPTER FIVE: SUMMARY/CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
One of the major trends in the world is the emergence of the social media a term also known as the ‘new media’. This emergence is as a result of the development and democratization of the information and communication technologies. It is characterised by the utilisation of various communication formats such images, video, text, and audio and driven by the combination of communication and information technology through the internet (Lasica, 2003). The social media according to Frentasia (2012: 6) is fascinating because it differs from traditional media such as newspapers and television in three important ways: One, it is able to facilitate two-way interaction with a large number of people at the same time; two, actors are connected with each other directly, without middlemen that control contents; three, and popular social media websites are free to join, making the cost of usage very low by modern standard.
As a trend, the social media has recently changed the face of governance and democracy which has been a major concern to social scientists. Although, democracy is a contested word that has made a strong appeal to the social media yet, the same concept has generated controversy among scholars particularly in the field of political science. However, democracy has given room for a greater human communication, freedom of expression and advancement in information and communication technology in the world today. The social media (through Facebook, twitter, YouTube etc.) has empowered the citizens to question any anti-people policy. Furthermore, it has opened up avenues for people to connect, communicate and participate in the governance of their country, as well as serve as a revolutionary tool that has made a better and greater increase in the demand for transparency, accountability and democratic reforms for a better society.
The point must also be made that social media platform like Facebook is used by many different countries and cultures, but not necessarily in the same way. Studies have shown that cultural differences profoundly impact the way people use social media (Sheedy, 2011). The study noted that though popular sites like Facebook and Twitter may be used by people of varied cultures, yet they may be utilized or understood the features in different ways. For example, Facebook treats all “friends” as the same, but some cultures may have different expectations for different relationships (Sheedy, 2011). The global digital divide has made many of the democratic states to still have challenges of full internet access, where they do; it is limited to the urban cities. Many of these countries have also not taken the full advantage of the full capabilities of the social media due to their limited technical knowledge of its usage. Another limitation of social media, along the same lines, is a gap in the level of participation of social media users. Although trends seem to indicate that more and more individuals will use social media as time passes (Lindsey, 2013).
The capability of the social media to bring about societal transformation, promotion and advancement of democracy is not in doubt. The problem and lack of regulation and control of the social media have also made some scholars to perceive it has a threat to democratic societies. This is why attempts are being made (particularly in the face of Arab spring) to come up with policies and legal framework to restrict the use of the social media. George (2003) however noted that the inherent characteristics of the Internet and the economic benefits associated with the adoption of the technology makes it difficult for the government to regulate social media in the same way that it did with traditional media such as print and broadcast.
A major issue of contention is that of the freedom of expression. This is very fundamental to democracy and also important to the social media. In fact, the essence or major pillar of democracy which is embedded in the freedom of expression is a foundation in which the social media is built. The question may then be asked at this point; what is the nexus between democracy and the social media? How trendy has the social media become in democratic societies? How can the social media developed into becoming a risk to democracy? The answers to these questions can be found in this study.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The study however, recognises that although social media have their own challenges like susceptibility to abuse and desecration; these can be effectively minimized if not obliterated through proper monitoring and regulatory controls without abridging freedom of expression. It therefore submits that the proper use of social media in fostering and sustaining participatory democracy in Nigeria in particular and Africa in general in the 21th century has the potential of deepening and consolidating democracy in spite of these teething challenges. Rumors, falsehood, propaganda and derogatory information about individual candidates or parties are commonly placed online and spread faster than anticipated, often with disastrous outcomes. This is largely attributed to the lack of editorial filtering, and the anonymity of most online users. The internet encourages anonymity of its users, which means that those who write and comment often use nicknames or aliases. Hence, anonymity provides an excellent opportunity for writing false stories or spreading rumors about candidates and their parties and this often leads to rancor fear and anxiety about the opposition party.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
i. To find out if social media promote democracy in Nigeria.
ii. To determine the influence social media has on Nigerians democratic system.
iii. To find out other factors that influence democracy in Nigeria.
iv. To examine the challenges posed by social media in Nigeria democratic system.
1.5 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
i. Has social media helped in promoting democracy in Nigeria?
ii. What influence do social media have on the Nigerians democratic system?
iii. Do you think social media system is not commensurate to other media systems elsewhere?
iv. What are the challenges posed by social media in Nigeria democratic system?
The significance of this report are as follows:
· The study indicated that social media can be used to promote Nigerian democratic system
· It indicated that social media act as a tool for improving the efficiency in Nigeria democracy.
· It enhanced transparency make governance more accountable to the public.
1.6 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
This project research focused specifically on the assessment of the potentials and challenges of social media in the consolidation of democracy in Nigeria.