By Uche Nworah
Theme: We Are Members One of Another. From Social Network Communities to the Human Community
Being thoughts shared by the Lead Speaker, Chief Uche Nworah, MD/CEO of Anambra Broadcasting Service (ABS) at the interactive session organised by the Social Communications Department of Catholic Diocese of Awka, Anambra State on Sunday, 2nd of June, 2019.
“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbour, for we are all members of one body’. Ephesians 4:25
In the context of the message by His Holiness, Pope Francis on the occasion of the celebration of 2019 World Communications Day, we encounter once again the age-old need for human communication. The Holy Father mentions “the desire of the human person who does not want to be left isolated and alone”.
I can relate this with what one of my Professors taught us in the University. The late Professor Emmanuel D. Akpan, formerly Head of Department of Communication Arts, and later the Dean of Faculty of Arts at the University of Uyo in one of his early Communication 101 lectures set our young minds alight with a riddle. He asked us to interpret and explain the meaning of the expression, “Man Can Not Not Communicate’. We had a hard time doing that, giving the expression many interpretations.
We see the need to interact as human beings with one another (sharing information, sharing joys and pains, celebrating success etc). Communication just like His Holiness has identified helps us also to fill voids in our lives, we do not ut the spate of suicides by young persons in Nigeria thus underscoring the need once again to share and communicate with one another.
want to be alone and isolated. We have all unfortunately read about the spate of suicides by young persons in Nigeria thus underscoring the need once again to share and communicate with one another.
We can talk about different forms of communication (intra -with oneself, inter – between two or few persons and mass communication-with large audience).
Overtime, means of communication have evolved. We have moved on from the era when trado-modern communication methods were dominant (e.g. gongs, ekwe, palm fronds, non-verbal cues, murals, paintings etc, although these still exist somewhat in rural communities). We are now in the modern internet era, the information age driven by globalisation, and powered by technology. This is where we begin to encounter some challenges hence the need for sessions such as this.
The theme of this year’s World Communications Day (From Social Network Communities To The Human Community) already tells us that some things are not going right, therefore we should retrace our steps. We should backtrack a bit.
Could it be that, that (technology) which is meant to advance human communication is now keeping humans apart hence the call to move away from proudly being ‘netizens’ and ‘digital natives’, to being citizens and natives of Enugwu-Ukwu, Awka, Nimo, Ihiala, Poland etc are doing. We sympathise with them when they are ill and celebrate them on their birthdays.
However, we do not know how our next door neighbour, or family member living under the same roof with us is faring. We have seen examples where at family gatherings people hardly speak to one another, father, mother, son and daughter have been observed engrossed with their smart phones, chatting on WhatsApp with distant friends, updating their Facebook and Instagram status, liking their friends’ photos and sharing theirs.
Onitsha, Nnewi etc once again? From the comforts of our homes, some of us, armed with our smart phones and tablets know what our social media friends in faraway Australia, London, Poland etc are doing. We sympathise with them when they are ill and celebrate them on their birthdays. However, we do not know how our next door neighbour, or family member living under the same roof with us is faring. We have seen examples where at family gatherings people hardly speak to one another, father, mother, son and daughter have been observed engrossed with their smart phones, chatting on WhatsApp with distant friends, updating their Facebook and Instagram status, liking their friends’ photos and sharing theirs.
Should we then totally discard communication technologies having now seen their capacity to keep humans more apart, inflict pain and cause destruction? This is the era of fake news or alternative facts according to U.S President Donald Trump. Some call it augmented reality or half-truth. How are we protecting ourselves and children from the largely distorted reality people share on social media as information on blogs etc. Who fact-checks?
For us as Ndigbo, we have in the past prided ourselves in our unity (Igwebuike), this was why such traditional institutions such as the Age-Grade system, Umunna meetings etc have helped to keep our communities together. Today, many have discarded such practices or do not care so much about them. How many still belong to them and play active roles? Many now prefer belonging to WhatsApp groups, Facebook and other online communities. Many of these groups are populated by largely faceless individuals with fake identities nursing certain agenda that sometimes draw people away from their faith.
Perhaps it will help us to henceforth re-connect with ourselves once more and begin to interact with one another as humans. The human instinct is that of caring, sharing and communicating with one another with mutual respect and love. If we have these in mind, we will shun being purveyors of fake news and malicious information through WhatsApp and other means knowing the potential damage such could cause. Just like we are told in Ephesians 4:25, “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbour, for we are all members of one body’. We should always be mindful of the “ethical, social, juridical, political and economic” dimensions of our use of, and engagement with social media and other technological devices.
We cannot go back to living in the stone ages. We cannot discard technology, however, we should adapt and use it to enhance our human communications. We should always be in control not the other way round. We should not allow communication technology to prevent us from communicating with one another as humans. Just like His Holiness said, technology and social web should be complementary to interpersonal communication involving the human body, heart, eyes, gaze, breath of the other etc. These are things we experience at Umunna meetings and other family social engagements.
In conclusion, I wish to remind us all that we are all members of one body, one body of Christ. We are humanity.