After Alex Talemwa’s internship at The Standard of Uganda Christian University ended in 2015, he needed to find another job. However, since job opportunities in Uganda are scarce, Talemwa had to prove his worth before the potential employers in the media industry.
Despite the fact that he was already good at writing, editing and taking pictures not many people outside knew his abilities except his colleagues at The Standard who would not employ him anyway.
What Talemwa did was to hit FaceBook to market his abilities.
“I was doing video blogs on social and political issues. “I don’t know how fast they moved but I was noticed. One day a guy called Darius Mugisha called me offering me the editor’s job at Matooke Republic because his Facebook friend, Edward Nimusiima, told him that I was good,” he recalls.
As if that was not enough, someone called Nancy Onyongo working for RNW, a public multimedia NGO based in the Netherlands, found my shared posts on her friend’s timeline and looked me up on Linkedin, a professional social media platform.
“She sent me an email and asked if I could contribute for them articles during the 2016 general elections in Uganda for $100 (sh370,000) per story which I accepted and earned good bucks,” Talemwa said, adding that social media has changed his life.
Social media in general is one of the popular online places for youth in Uganda and those who know how to use the sites have taken advantage of it to change their lives. However, since most of them are on Facebook as available statistics indicate, about 60% of Ugandans use Facebook; it’s one platform they are not about to leave.
One of the most popular programmes is the Facebook facelift. Facebook facelift allows people keep updating their social media accounts with pictures to tell people about what is going on in their lives. For example, people often post pictures of themselves when they are in church, office or other public places.
How youth use it
Timothy Wasanghai, a student of Business Administration at the main campus in Mukono, says he tried the Facebook facelift to improve his looks before his friends and it worked.
“I decided to try it mainly because I wanted to increase my morale and courage towards my friends,” he said, adding that he got a number of friends in a very short period.
Martha Nanyonga, a third-year Mass Communication student, also told The Standard that she has used Facebook facelift on several occasions to boost her image unlike some of her friends, who do not know how to use the platform and are frustrated with the same ugly photos on their accounts.
“It’s working,” she said. “If it puts a smile on your face every day, it’s worth it.”
With the improvement in technology which has brought about the increase in the number of social media platforms for interaction, a lot of people are adopting these features inorder to attract more friends as well as make themselves feel like they are more than what they are.
Benezeri Chibita, a journalist and artist working with The Standard, noted that social media platforms like Facebook are also providing employment opportunities in many ways.
“There’s a profession now known as ‘Influencing’ where a social media user indirectly advertises a client to his or her followers. Different companies now target social media users who have a big following,” he said.
Brendah Atukunda, a recent graduate of Bachelor of Laws at UCU agrees with Chibita that social media has also become critical in the business world.
“Many businesses, when they get job applicants, want to know about them. So they go to Facebook and LinkedIn, and read their resumes besides seeing their pictures,” Atukunda said.
Joseph Musaalo, the UCU counsellor, agrees with both of them , arguing that the focus on Facebook is no longer on just going out and having fun, but on getting the pictures to prove some-one’s worth.
“Some people are apparently hiring or appointing people to take pictures when they’re out to post on Facebook,” said Musaalo.
“This kind of behaviour, dubbed the ‘Facebook facelift’ is common among the youth.”
He added, “People have reached the point of going for cosmetic surgery to improve their image for social media sites and many young people, who are not yet there are struggling with self-esteem caused by peer pressure.”
Musaalo, however, noted that the media is promoting unrealistic ideals on Facebook about what men and women’s body types should look like in order to be considered attractive, which may not be right.
Lydia Nangereka, a third-year student of Mass Communication said that whenever she is putting pictures on Facebook, she uses a filter on every photo because she does not feel beautiful enough.
“Technological advancements play a major role in why I do this,” she says.
Similarly, Edwin Byarugaba, the web and e-learning administrator at UCU, noted that some people may be posting nice looking pictures on some social media platforms such as Youtube, Instagram and Snapchat because the practice pays.
“If you have over 1000 subscribers on Youtube, the site starts to pay you,” Byarugaba said.
“The generation we are living in is called the ‘e-generation’ which means a lot of the programmes such as photoshop are available online to allow the people to improve their image online.”
He added that we are moving into a world where it is convenient for everyone to do whatever they want with their lives at the click of a button.
“We can simply change our appearance using a photo app to suit what we want people to see us to be,” he said.
Shunning social media
However, there are youth who have shunned Facebook facelift like Sheilah Natukunda, 23.
“I have not tried it because some of my friends who had it seemed to have online scum. Different people approach you giving you fake deals to appear in their online magazine,” Natukunda said.
Ariadne Mwijuka, another student at UCU noted that one time she went out with a guy and at the end of the day he asked her why she looked different from the picture he had seen on her site on Facebook.
“I was so embarrassed by it that I never contacted him again,” Mwijuka said.
However, for whatever reason that people use social media platforms for, it is clear that this is not about to change any time soon yet with it comes more benefits and problems.