Is Social Media Giving a Voice to the Voiceless?

By Seck Barry, Intern

In December 2010, a jobless college graduate took his own life, setting himself on fire as a way of protesting against the government in Tunisia.   The act, publicized on Twitter, provoked young people in Tunisia to charge their political regime and demand change. What followed was a shockwave of rebellion that permeated throughout the Middle East. From Tunisia to Saudi Arabia, young people used social media to mobilize and protest, reminding those living outside of the continent that, if Africa is on fire, the world will not be in peace. 

Africa is the largest, and yet the least known, continent in the world.  The perception most people have of of Africa is that it is poor, corrupt, and politically unstable.  However, these are largely misconceptions, portraying only one perspective fueled by western media. The way Africa’s current issues and people are portrayed to the West is inconsistent with the reality of what is really happening there socially, politically and economically. However, the development of social media is making it possible for ordinary Africans and scholars, like Tukufu Zuberi, to share their thoughts about what is happening on the continent, and how it contributes to the rest of the world.

Is this approach revolutionary? If so, what does it mean for Africa and its people? Will it encourage people in the western world to pay more attention to the continent and the progress it is making every day? These are questions to which I, a native of Guinea and an intern for Professor Zuberi, seek answers.

I enjoy being part a team that is working hard everyday to help promote Tukufu’s groundbreaking documentary film, entitled, African Independence.  Most importantly, I love the collaborative effort of Professors, filmmakers, reporters, researcher assistants, and students like myself to help engage the public about both Africa’s contribution to the world, as well as what needs be done to address the major challenges facing Africa today. Just like the young people who made the Arab Spring possible through the use of social media in Africa, we, too, are using Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube to connect with the public from the Department of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania.

Posted on February 20, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I think social media does encourage people to become more confident in sharing their ideas and opinions. They feel like they are less likely to be challenged. Maybe it feels like social media is a wall to hide behind. Interesting discussion!

  2. Wth social media, the world is definitely a village. It’s a wonderful thing that we now can connect with people to talk about issues impacting this world. I believe your voice does make a difference. I ponder upon ways young people can use social media to make this world a better place? any ideas?

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