Somalia’s use of social media has increased in recent years. Though there are low levels of Internet penetration and a lack of ownership of personal computers. Most Somalis access their social media platforms through mobile phones. And there has been an explosion in the private-led telecommunication industries in Somalia.
By their nature Somalis are an oral people and their ancient propensity for spoken word and poetry is a remarkably neat fit for the 21st century social media platforms. In recent years Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube have emerged as powerful social networks that Somalis at home and abroad have harnessed to discuss politics, culture and identity.
The #Somalia hashtag is particularly popular on Instagram and Twitter. Another feature of Somali social media conversations has been the desire for Somalis to reclaim their narrative about their country. Many Somalis feel their country is framed through a problematizing lens by western media: Somalia is only depicted as place of wars, famines and terrorism. Somalia is often cited as the world’s most dangerous country and this perception frames how the country has been reported.
The age of social media has allowed Somali social media users to counteract this historic framing of their country. Social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have allowed them the means to bypass mainstream media channels to tell their own stories.
Many online campaigns have been launched in recent years. Such as Somali Faces, an online project that shares everyday stories of ordinary Somali from around the world. The Anti-Tribalism Movement, a non-profit organisation aimed at educating and raising awareness about the effects of tribalism within communities has used YouTube and Facebook videos to show another side to Somalis at home and in the diaspora. Meanwhile, modelled on the Humans of New York, Humans of Somalia has also sought to present a different image of Somalia to the world: images of ordinary Somalis succeeding against the odds and images of the country that are not the aftermath of a terrorist attack or starving children.
Another aspect to Somalis on social networks has been young Somalis in the diaspora capturing their return journeys home.. Ugaaso Abukar Boocow an instagramer with 264,000 followers has in recent years gained international following for her portraits of everyday life in Somalia. She has become one the key Somali social media influencers, so much so that the BBC in 2015 dubbed her, a “global star on Instagram.”