The Somalia Famine: Why Social Media Fails Sometimes
President Barack Obama talks with Governor Rick Perry to express his concern for citizens of Texas impacted by the unprecedented fires, during a phone call in the Oval Office, Sept. 7, 2011. (Credit: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
by Alan W. Silberberg
Horrifying: 29,000 children under the age of five died in the last 90 days alone in Somalia. Twenty-nine thousand children are gone, and yet who most of us using social media have heard little about this news.
It has been said that social media becomes the tool of this fad or that fad or during an emergency crisis it becomes the tool of the voices of the hurt, injured, missing. But, in a slow crisis, something like the famine in Somalia, the images are roughly the same every day, so many feel they don’t need to repost about the plight. And, the problems are only increasing.
Where is the outcry on social media like there was for the Chilean, Haitian, Japanese earthquakes and resultant disasters? Is this a racial thing because it is Africa? Is it a boring story because it seems “every other day” there is some story in the western media about some country in Africa that is having yet another famine?
But 29,000 children under the age of five have died. Have you done anything to help? Have you used your socialmedia influence to educate people about this slow-burning crisis? Or, has your social media use been of the more prosaic variety like “I checked in McDonalds with 3 other people.” It’s kind of ironic that while some of us are checking into restaurants with the highest of technology, at that very same instant some child just died of starvation. This is definitely an inversion of unintended consequences, but how far is this going to go?
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Somalia is not out of the news; in fact, it is in the news often. The last few years we have seen story after story about Somalian pIracy on the high seas. Now the story is about the horriblefamine. Obviously there are lots of websites set up to take in donations, organized by non -governmental relief agencies like the International Red Cross and UNICEF.
But, that is not my point. While there are lots of great fundraising and donation websites and applications available, it is my contention we are not seeing the type of action and influence we could be seeing out of social networks on this front. There does not seem to be a sustained Twitter strategy to bring awareness to the starvation and famine in Somalia, and on Facebook it appears to be a weak effort as well.
Do you think social media can play a role in ending this famine? Can it help or will it hurt the cause?