The study examines social media influence on political participation among students of Delta State University, Abraka. The study was anchored on the theory of Technological Determinism Theory which concern with the technological assistance for communication among people. The research was carried out using the survey design method with the population size of 300 drawn from the Department of Political Science and Mass Communication, and the sample size of 163. The same administered questionnaire was returned by the respondents, the simple random techniques which gives the sample equal chances of being selected was employed and the data from the questionnaire was selected, collated and analyzed. The study showed that students affirmed that social media influence political participation but do not really have strong relationship with political participation. Students think that social media strategy for political participation is just a mere political activity, students accepted that despite the fact that social media do not have strong influence on students political participation, students participate in politics with their political posts, comments and shares and this have a way to influence some of the students that have appetite for politics and the heavy use of social media by the people has introduced a new way of political communication in Nigeria. The study therefore, recommended that students should cultivate the habit of frequently using the social media for political activity such as campaign, public opinion and reporting of political activities.
1.1 Background to the Study
Social media is a community of people sharing things in common with speed and intimacy. According to Nnanyelogo and Nwafor (2013), social media means those Internet-based tools and services that allow users to engage with each other, generate content, distribute, and search for information online. Social media are interactive web-based media platforms that offer citizens opportunity and place to connect, share opinions, experiences, views, contacts, knowledge, expertise, as well as other things like job and career tips.
According to Dunu (2018), social media is an inclusive Arena where social being uses the Facebook in an exceptionally inclusive arena for groups meet, irrespective of age, class, educational level, religion and ethnicity. The lack of a clear hierarchy is a characteristic of social media that encourages freedom to comment and criticize. This inclusiveness means that people find themselves on the same arena as people from very different contexts of their lives; family, friends, old schoolmates and new colleagues form a unique and cooperative community.
According to Nnanyelogo and Nwafor (2013), social media belong to a new genre of media that focuses on social networking allowing users to express themselves, interact with friends and share information with greater freedom as well as publish their views on issues on the World Wide Web. This interaction has be time consuming by the people and the people are not offended. According to Chatora, (2012) observes that it is this interactive or collaborative nature of these tools that makes them social. Mayfield (2008) describes these media as online platforms that promote participation, openness, conversation and connectedness.
Nation (2010), sees social media as social instruments of communication which are different from the conventional instruments like newspapers or magazines. They are online content, created by people using highly accessible and scalable publishing technologies to disseminate information across geographical boundaries, providing interaction among people (Adibe, Odoemelam and Orji (2012). They support democratization of knowledge and information, thereby making the people both information producers and consumers, (Nnanyelugo and Nwafor, 2013),
The heavy use of social media by the people has introduced a new way of political communication in Nigeria. According to Dunu (2018), the emergence of the Internet with its unique attributes had many envisioning it with democratizing powers. The argument is that the Internet had the ability to increase participation in the public sphere and such increased participation was seen to lead to more equality and less hierarchy.
In a research report by Pew Research Center, (2012), state that online news information sources have become an indispensable part of the American public’s media diet. The results of a January 2012 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press revealed that 25% of American adults were regularly learning about the presidential candidates and campaigns from the Internet. The regular use of the Internet as a source of campaign news has almost doubled since the 2004 presidential election
Dunu (2018), the architecture of the Internet where all users are equal and may interact directly as argued may enable a level playing field where participation and deliberation can take place with less hierarchical distinction between people from different classes. Since social media are also Internet services the potential to increase participation and deliberations are possible.
Scholars in political communication generally agree that both traditional and online media affect how people learn about and engage in the political process. However, research on the effects of traditional media sources, primarily television, on political participation has produced different conclusions, (de Vreese & Boomgaarden, 2006). Good enough, the coming of social media in the last few years is fast changing the situation as we now have online platforms that serve as a new “political capital” where people now resort to and participate in political discourse (Abubakar:2011).
The essence of social media in politics especially political participation is to provide the platform for democracy. People who could afford television and radio air time can now use the social media to show either solidarity or counter campaign. In the political sphere it has become a veritable tool for interacting and mobilizing citizens towards active participation in the political process and democratic projects. This agrees with the submissions of Okoro and Dirim (2009) that it is through the media that people are able to participate freely in discussions relevant to public good.
Social media is a channel for mass mobilization for political activities. This is because of the larger number of people on the social media. The users are eligible voters and this makes the people to participate in politics. According to Daniela and Hamilton (2013), in many parts of the world today, individuals, groups, organizations and even nations are taking advantage of the opportunities provided by social media and other e-media platforms to mobilize millions of people to support and advance their course.
In the political sphere it has become a veritable tool for interacting and mobilizing citizens towards active participation in the political process and democratic projects. This agrees with the submissions of Okoro and Dirim (2009) that it is through the media that people are able to participate freely in discussions relevant to public good.
According to Nnayelugo and Nwafor (2013), political participation include such activities like political discourse, political campaigns, voter registration, the actual voting, writing and signing of petitions, attending of civil protests, joining interest groups that engage in lobbying, political advocacy, monitoring and reporting of cases of violation of the electoral process such as frauds, rigging, intimidation, violence, monetary inducements, underage voting, etc.
Carpentier (2011), suggests becomes apposite as he argues in favour of what he refers to as maximalist democracy. The approach emphasizes both representation and participation in institutional politics and also in political dimension of the social. Within this context the democratizing potential of these new media comes from an expectation that new media may enable ordinary people to participate in politics both institutionally and in social settings.
Onwukwe (2011), notes that prior to this period, political rallies, personal contacts and speeches were popularly used for mobilizing electorates’ support on political issues, and that this was greatly propelled by the mass media force. At that time, political participation was more risky, expensive and required a great deal of investments from individuals willing to engage in political activities. The process was quite demanding as far as time, money, knowledge and information are concerned. The endemic poverty in Africa prevented citizens from attending political meetings, and sometimes, from travelling to exercise their voting rights.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Social media have being seen as a platform for political participation. People easily gain access to social media and they are privilege to post issues relating to politics as well as declaring their political status. Mayfield (2010) attribute the social media capacity of boosting participation to its connectedness and textual/audio-visual characteristics appeal. For one, the Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, the 2go, GSM-SMS/calls, blackberries services, etc, have made political participation much easier, faster and even more cost effective than ever before.
However, there are many cases of political character assassination, fake political news, discrimination, intimidation, privacy invasion and propaganda. These issues have discouraged many social media users from participating in politics as they think that social media politics are not censored. According Dunu (2018), in recent anecdotal evidence point to other emerging developments in ways the social media may have been used recently in Nigerian political election process especially the Nigerian Gubernatorial elections that have different dates from other general elections. For instance the just concluded Anambra State, South-East, Nigeria’s Nov, 2017, gubernatorial polls have been criticized for being characterized and associated with Internet brigandage, fake news, social media nuisance, and character vilification majorly on Facebook, Whatssapp and other social media platforms.
Therefore, this study seeks to investigate the contributions and the dark side of social media to political participation in Nigeria with a view to close the gap in knowledge as regards the objective of the study.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The followings are the objectives of the study.
- To determine social media influence on political participation among students in Delta State University, Abraka.
- To ascertain the extent social media influence political participation among students in Delta State University, Abraka.
- To determine the relationship between social media and political participation.
- To ascertain whether social media help students in social media political participation.
1.4 Research Questions
The followings are the objectives of the study.
- Do social media influence political participation among students in Delta State University, Abraka?
- To what the extent have social media influenced political participation among student in Delta State University, Abraka?
- What is the relationship between social media and political participation?
- Do social media helped students in social media in political participation?
1.5 Significance of the Study
There has been need to research on this topic because of the new dimension of social media usage in all aspect of life including politics. Many scholars has rule out political function of the social media because of the radio and television. So this study is to reveal the gap that exist as well as provide resolution adopted in recent time to close the gap using social media use in political participation.
The study will determine whether social media influence political participation among students, ascertain the extent to which social media influence political participation among students, determine the relationship between social media and political participation and ascertain whether social media have help students in social media in political participation.
The findings from this study will provide scholars with knowledge for further research. Also, it will be guiding principles to students and politician and other related profession
1.6 Scope of the Study
The study covers students of Delta State University, Abraka. The coverage will be restricted to two departments in the faculty of the Social Sciences and the departments are Sociology and Political Science. The scope covers 2018/2019 academic session.
1.7 Definition of Terms
Political Participation: This is the involvement of citizens in the political activities of a state before, during and after electoral process and exercises.
Social Media: This means social networking site design to create flow of information among users in their social quest. These include but not limited to facebook, whatsapp, instagram, twitter e.t.c.
Election: This is the process of electing new political office hold through voting be the electorate. It is conducted by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Influence: This is the art at which a variable affect another variable in cause a change of outcome.
Student: This is a person who is gainfully admitted into the University or other Institution of higher learning for the purpose to acquire educational knowledge.