Twitter and Influence

02 Jul

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 Thank you.


Posted by on July 2, 2012 in General


3 responses to “Twitter and Influence

  1. Izebhokhae Stanley

    July 3, 2012 at 8:20 am

    Let them pay me for survey, my time is not cheap…

    • anagail

      July 3, 2012 at 8:44 am

      There is no ‘they’, its my research work. Na wa for you o!

  2. Akeemagali

    July 7, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    Its true that Twitter and Social networking sites in general have taken the political world by strong winds. It has really changed the way candidates campaign and the way the electorates learn about politics. However, the Nigerian Government officials individually use these media as one of the best ways to get into office and also pretend they are busy while actually they do nothing.
    What government policies are being communicated to Nigerians? Through which handles? WhenTwitter in Nigeria is becoming an environment that favours fame and celebrity. You beg to be followed if you are not famous or influential.
    I wait in anticipation of the outcome of your research work.


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