Bernays (1928) says that it is possible to “regiment the public mind every bit as much as an army regiments their bodies”. That is to say, it is possible to influence and manipulate the opinion of individuals in a society such that they think and act in the way the manipulator wants them to. This influence was used extensively by the Third Reich leader, Adolf Hitler, to the extent that Germans as a people saw nothing wrong with the persecution and subsequent extermination of millions of Jews and others in the Holocaust. They acted as a mob.
Hitler’s co-ordinated attempt to influence public opinion in his time was carried out using the media, especially radio. Hitler was able to broadcast messages through radio over and over and soon, German’s began to believe these messages.
Scholars have long been interested in the study of media influence. This has led to the propagation of various media effects theories such as the Hypodermic Needle/Magic Bullet theory, Two/Three Step Flow theories, Cultivation theory, Social Action theory, Agenda Setting theory, Media Dependency theory among others. There have been debates and disagreements among scholars disproving these theories or favouring one over the other. Most of these theories were, however, propounded with the traditional media in mind.
Today, communication technology has led to the realisation of Marshall Mcluhan’s “global village”. Internet technology has made it possible for anyone with a mobile device or personal computer to link up with the world and get information at their finger tips. The age of “pen pals” and the snail mail have been replaced with social networking and messaging at the touch of a button. Audiences have moved from being mere receivers of media messages to becoming users of the media and news sources. (Bryant & Thompson, 2002). Shapiro (1999) argues that the emergence of new digital technologies signals a potential radical shift of who is in control of information, experience and resources. We can contrast President Barack Obama’s use of the new media in his election campaigns and the use of new media to co-ordinate the Egyptian revolution, to support this argument. The new media seems to be the silver bullet that would solve all problems of opinion formation especially with most of the traditional media now running a new media counterpart of their various products.
The present government of Nigeria has embraced the use of social media as a channel to communicate government policies to Nigerians. The idea of “tweet meets” was developed by Minister of Youth, Alhaji Bolaji Abdulahi and the first held in October 2011, “the idea is to break down the bureaucratic walls and grant any Nigerian who has a computer, internet and Twitter handle access to the Minister”. Other ministers have since followed suit. (Vanguard Newspapers, Dec 28, 2011)
It is against this back drop that I have chosen to examine the Role of New Media in Influencing Public Opinion on Policy Issues in Nigeria, using Twitter as a case study. This is a research work. Please if you use Twitter, could you take five minutes of your time to complete this survey. None of the information you provide will be used for any other purpose other than this research. Please follow this link http://kwiksurveys.com/online-survey.php?surveyID=MMOMFN_2e15f605&u=twitterinfluenceongovpolicy&UID=2796871365 Thank you.