By Mugambi Mutegi
When I was informed that this week’s blog topic is social media, my mind drew a blank, for a couple of days.
I found the writer’s block ironic given the amount of time I spend on Twitter, Facebook and Whatsapp sharing silly anecdotes, holding serious discussions or uploading photos of my dinner.
You, my social comrade, are probably reading this blog after being redirected to the Alfred Friendly Press Partners website from a link posted on Twitter or Facebook.
I always have something to say on social media, but what should I say about it?
I could write about the fact that my aunt – who is in her late 40s – joined Whatsapp this week and is already sending me emoticons.
At this rate she will soon ambush me with an “LOL” or better yet a “XOXO” at the end of our now frequent chats.
I could also write about an interesting article I read by Newsweek this week (via their Twitter feed) about the growing number of suicides in America.
John Cacioppo, a professor at the University of Chicago is quoted in the article as saying Facebook is not necessarily the cause of loneliness but “the greater the proportion of online interactions, the lonelier you are.”
Please go ahead and rate your loneliness. I faired terribly.
I should blog about the new Kenyan government – I don’t know when it gets old – taking to social media.
Or maybe just keep it simple and type out a post on the 1,000 reasons my beautiful girlfriend, Susan, gives on why Twitter is an astronomical waste of precious time.
These are the diverse options my brain presented me after finally rebooting on Thursday – several hours to my article deadline.
Later that evening, I went for dinner with yet another Chicago Tribune editor and her friends. They, too, are lovers of the written word.
The obligatory “future of media” topic came up, while others shared their views on the risk media faces from “citizen journalism.”
One of the ladies at the table said she had recently, for the first time in her life, failed to renew her newspaper subscription.
Her Twitter feed and online subscriptions will fill the void, she said.
I offered my Kenyan observations.
Social media is big in Kenya, so huge in fact that Twitter recently added Kenya to the trending topics options. No medals come with that though.
Just as is the case across the world, journalism in Kenya has gone highly social. I also believe social media and digital journalism are like conjoined twins.
Not only are journalists advised to maintain a reputable social presence, but social media is continually being used to share stories, becoming a news source.
My employer, Nation Media Group, for instance, now has a dedicated “digital” team handling this evolving platform, posting tweets, Facebook shares and ensuring the website is up to date.
Thus far, there are similarities in the use of social media and digital platforms between the U.S. and my home country.
While Americans are going social and digital just as much as Kenyans, I think theirs is a reactionary move. Dwindling newspaper sales in the U.S. have forced media houses to make unprecedented adjustments to their newsrooms keeping in step with the huge popularity of tablets, e-readers and smart phones.
A January 2013 report by Pew Research states that nearly half of American adults own a smart phone and 31 percent of them have tablets. I’m not privy to the Africa/Kenya numbers, but they are also definitely on the uptrend.
In contrast to Americans, however, African media houses– including mine- are embracing digital and social media as a precaution.
PS: In case you haven’t noticed, I finally settled on a topic, but I digress.
Business Daily, the publication that pays my rent, has seen its circulation increase year on year – a trend also true for other newspapers in the NMG stable. While this is happening, the organization is with purpose increasing its digital and social media presence.
On several occasions, I’ve heard management admit to the fact that one day, the realities that have befallen developed nations will be replayed in Africa. “Let’s not get caught unprepared,” they say.
“Interesting,” said Patricia, one of the ladies having dinner with me.
For those who have read until this point, I may have been darting around like a deflated balloon, but I hope it was not a waste of your time.