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The new media: A blessing or curse to Nigerians?

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New media as a concept presupposes modern means of communication through digital application as contrasted to the traditional, mainstream media. However, before the advent of the new media there exist the traditional media.

The media is as old as Olumo rock, it has been a significant part of the society right from the start. As food and water is important to man so is communication, since there is need for communication and to do so effectively we need a medium. So the first media that was used in Nigeria is the traditional media of communication. These were the media used by the indigenous Nigerians before the colonial adventures got to the shore of Nigeria. The traditional media perform in their own style virtually all the functions being performed today by the modern mass media. The traditional media include the Town criers, Oral traditions, talking drums, smoke signals/gunshots, music, festivals, dramas amongst others. The town criers system is a potent force in information dissemination as it remains an authoritative voice of the traditional authority. He uses a metal gong which is varying in sizes and shapes to communicate information to the villagers. The town crier is usually heard in the early hours of the morning preceded by the sound of the gong. He announces important meetings, ceremonies, messages and imminent troubles. He is seen as the society’s journalist. The effectiveness of the town crier usually lies in his oratory skill and thorough knowledge of the community norms, values and heritage. Oral tradition, this is one of the most important media through which Nigerians interact and communicate in rural setting. The tradition in form of history, cultural values and heritage were passed on by words of mouth from one generation to another in form of songs, proverbs, legends and so on. The oral tradition dominated all other source of information exchange in precolonial Nigeria. The talking drum speaks the language of the community, expresses their feelings, circumstances and events. It speaks without tongues and its audience hears and understands the message content, it is also an instrument of music. Smoke signal/gunshots: the earliest form of long distance communication, it is a form of visual communication and it is used to transmit signal of danger or gather people to a common area.

These traditional media lies in the fact that they have survived even up to this day and are still waxing strong as essential media of communication especially in the rural areas where more than 75 percent of Nigerian still live. It users consider them more credible than the modern mass media, they are also cheap, easily available, accessible and easy to understand.

Media development grew from the above reviewed traditional media of communication to the print media of communication, then to the broadcast or audio visual media of communication and then to the new media. The print media with it’s humble beginning with Reverend Henry Townsend’s Iwe Iroyin in 1859, Robert Campbell’s Anglo-African in 1863 and others. Since then, there has been a great increase in the production and circulation of newspapers, magazines and other periodicals.

In addition, it is same for the broadcast media both in term of rapid development or growth and is a very powerful influence in Nigeria’s communication. Commencing with the BBC’s (British Communication Corporation) by the colonial masters so as to facilitate communication between them and the headquarters in 1932, the birth of the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation in 1951(now the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, FRCN). The upsurge and politics of regional broadcasting that saw the emergence of the Western Nigeria Broadcasting Service (WNBS), the Eastern Nigeria Broadcasting Service (ENBS), and the Northern Nigeria Broadcasting Service (NNBS), the establishment of government amplifier modulation (AM) and Frequency modulation (FM) stations in Nigeria’s thirty six (36) States and federal capital territory, down to the approval of private ownership of broadcasting houses with the establishment of the National broadcasting commission (NBC). Both the traditional, broadcast and print media has become a formidable force in the dissemination of information, education, entertainment, transmission of cultural heritage from one generation to another and also socioeconomic development in Nigeria.

The evolution of the digital media brings with it a new form of colonial rule where everyone is a king and queen in their own respect. It catch up with the society so fast that we did not notice ourselves getting colonised thinking we are becoming more modernised. The old media which is characterised mostly by cost because it tends to be physical distribution are high, that is; the costs of books, television, radio and newspapers. These might be one of the main reason why people especially students massively subscribe to the use of the new media which is characterised by its digital nature and its low physical cost of production and distribution such as the Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp and other apps that can be used to receive and transmit information.

In spite of the advantages that come with this form of passing information to mass audience, now came the 21st century media called the new media. The evolution of this media brings connectivity. The first and main advantage of the social media is connectivity. People from anywhere can connect with anyone regardless of the location and religion. The beauty of social media is that you can connect with anyone to learn and share your thoughts. Social media has a lot of benefits for the students and teachers. It is very easy to learn from others who are experts and professionals via the social media. You can follow anyone to learn from him/her and enhance your knowledge on any field. Regardless of your location and education background you can educate yourself, without paying for it. The social media can also be used for noble causes, for example, to promote a non-governmental organisation (NGO), social welfare activities and donations for needy people. It provides users the convenience and atmosphere to interact, share ideas, opinions, experience and views. It brings people all over the world closer by turning the world into a global village. It has become a medium for political mobilisation, electoral campaign and above all, it brings about the fastest and easiest ways of doing things. For example, if we look at the old newspaper production compared to the modern system of production with the use of the new media technologies, we will see that it has succeeded in shortening the production process which also amount to time saving. It has reduced the stress of production compared to the laborious process endured by newspapermen. It is now more neater and aesthetically appealing thanks all to technology.

But when a river flows through a forest it pulls down trees. The new media has succeeded in colonising us culturally. A man’s right lies in his confidence and personalities which is greatly nurtured by his culture. Man is essentially a product of his culture that beats and moulds a person into a particular shape, it makes one speak, dance, think and behave in a particular manner. It’s culture that makes one Jukun, Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo, Kanuri, Tiv and so on. But now we have been culturally imposed through the use and exposure to the new media because as it passes across information, entertainment, lifestyles, trends comes with it from various countries across the globe. It has influence the way we dress, behave, greet and so on. Students nowadays dress half naked probably to copy their favorite artists, or someone they might have seen on the social media. They feel they are not civilised or are considered local if they have not reveal vital parts of their body. They now behave and speak like the British and the Americans. They hardly greet their elders these days and if they do, they now find it difficult to kneel down or prostrate as young man and woman do in a typical African culture.

Mentally, academically, students can no longer use their brains to think creatively, we can see that the level of creativity, innovations and even inventions has greatly reduced. All they think about now is how to charge their phones. 90 percent of students carry their phone’s charger to school, lecture halls, church and mosque to charge. The funniest part is that some of them when you check their phones, the battery percentage is more than 50 percent. They are just afraid of depleting the battery since they cannot do without it for even a minute. They waste their individual time that could have been utilised by productive tasks and activities.

In the aspect of education, textbooks are no longer in use in different schools. Lecturers no longer recommend textbooks for students for further reading or assignments. Students subscribe to the use of internet to do their assignments; they will just copy what they see online that is related to the assignment and paste then print it out. Students no longer attend lectures since they believe that whatever they are being taught they will find it online. Since education in this era is not to read, understand and pass, but to read and pass even though you don’t understand, lecturer too no longer request for assignments in hard copies, but in soft copy forwarded to his/her email.

Everything is now done electronically. Spiritually, people no longer have time for God in our society. Today, some people will claim to leave their house to worship and pray, the next thing you see them doing is operating their phone while the service is still on. They are so addicted to this practice to the extent that during prayer they are still glued to the screen of their phones.

The excessive usage of social media can also have a negative impact on health. Since exercise is the key to losing weight, many people get lazy because of the excessive use of social networking sites. This has led to disorder in their life routine. Finding shows that it reduces cortisol level.

Personal data and privacy can easily be hacked and shared on the Internet and this can lead to financial losses and loss to personal life. Similarly, identity theft is another issue that can lead to financial losses through hacking of peoples’ personal accounts. Several personal Twitter and Facebook accounts have been hacked in the past and the hackers posted information that compromises the security and safety of individual. This is one of the disadvantages of social media and every user is advised to keep their personal data and accounts safe to avoid such incidents. One of the disadvantages of the social media is that people follow those who are wealthy or addicted to drugs and share their views and videos on the web. This has wide ranging impact of impressionable youths who follow them and get addicted to drugs. All these are evils brought by the new media. There is a need for us as a nation to balance the usage of technology to guard against their fueling our foreign dependency.

Lawal Nafisat Folake is a 300 level Student of Mass Communication, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University Lapai, Niger State.


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