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“Understanding the Value of Strategic Partnerships: My Love and Hate Relationship with Social Media”

A friend of mine has just sent me a video clip on WhatsApp. The type users of any other social media forward each other and muse themselves with throughout the day. Those who hate social media believe that such recycled content either wastes one’s time or literary kills their whole day. Folks tend to spend hours sending, retweeting, and reading other people’s sent messages. They feel a certain high when they resend or retweet an already existing platitude. They might even feel useful when they resend a clever YouTube video or a not so funny video clip created by someone else. They find pleasure in forwarding all this information. They hope that it will somehow cause an emotional reaction among their friends, colleagues, family members and frenemies, perhaps.

As a result, many people are no longer thinking or creating their own content. But rather, they are busy forwarding other people’s video clips or concepts. One of my favorites is the faith-based inspirational stories or quotes. It is all beautiful, spiritual, and dandy until towards the end. It seems like the sender finds much pleasure in ‘forcing’ the receiver to re-send it to at least 15 or more people. If they don’t, something bad might happen to them. Or does it? On the contrary, something bad is about to happen in a video clip that my friend has just sent me.

So, I confess that I do have this love/hate relationship with social media. But I am feeling curious this moment. Without any guilt of wasting my time or perhaps an entire day, I click on this video clip and start watching. It’s one of those silent skits of a man about to start eating his food on a sunny day-lunch break. I call him “Maluuza.” But, at the arrival of an uninvited visitor, or so it seems, Maluuza suddenly hides his food underneath the bench on which he is sitting. While he is reluctantly responding to this uninvited visitor, a dog who I am calling “Magujja,” comes out of this hiding underneath Maluuza’s bench. This is also the same place where he probably thinks he has safely hidden his food.

Magujja who happens to be tied on a chain in this dark, rusty, and pipe-like hiding has found his lunch. Magujja stays in the shadows underneath the bench and decides to munch on Maluuza’s food. After only a few minutes of delicious bliss, Maluuza’s entire plate is empty. A chicken bone is left on the plate and Magujja is happy to start working on that too as soon as he completes his happy yawn. Apparently looking satisfied and sleepy, he licks his upper and lower lips before he gets back to the crunchy bone. Maluuza is busy thwarting the uninvited visitor that he has no clue about what is going on underneath the bench!

While Maluuza is nonchalantly talking to the uninvited visitor, something else is happening. A woman and a shirtless man who I call bystanders have been all along watching what’s happening to Maluuza’s food. One can see them laughing aloud, seemingly, because obviously without Maluuza’s knowledge, Magujja has been gormandizing on his food under their watch. The uninvited visitor seems to be asking for a favor. His excruciating facial expressions and body posture tell of a man who is either sick or hungry. He might need help. One can almost sense that he is asking Maluuza for something, like money? or some supplies? Unsure. Maybe he is asking Maluuza to share some of his food with him. But Maluuza is not sharing and that’s the conundrum. But we can only guess because the video clip is in silent mode.

After a short while and several nonverbals of disinterest from Maluuza as if rejecting a proposal, the uninvited visitor seems to give up and leaves. Maluuza is being so mean. But not as mean as the dog underneath the bench where he thinks his lunch is safe on this sunny day. It is only a matter of minutes that our angry and hungry Maluuza man is about to find out. Meanwhile, the bystanders are now hysterically chuckling while Maluuza is suddenly excited to get back to his eating. He reaches down underneath the chair and grabs his plate. But alas, instead, he only finds leftover crunched bones. Magujja makes another sound as if saying, “hey, I wasn’t quite done with that plate bro.” When Maluuza discovers that a dog has eaten his food, he is infuriated. At this time, Magujja has retreated to his hiding, and ready to have a little nap on this sunny day. What a day, what a day, what a beautiful lunch day break for Magujja!

Like a goat chewing the cud, Magujja makes these tongue slapping sounds. He moans in happy falsettos like a satisfied Scooby doo, not a scared one. Magujja is a well-fed dog, ladies, and gentlemen, I can tell you that right now. Bad dog indeed, so thinks Maluuza. By now, the bystanders are openly chortling while pointing at him. Dumbfounded, Maluuza’s apparent hunger and anger compels him to pull the not so hungry sleepy dog out of its rusty hiding and starts beating on it. Poor Magujja! What is really going on here? I think, to justify why I have just indulged myself in one of the social media delicacies, I must at least decide to squeeze some meaning from that short video clip.

So, the larger analogy here is a vivid illustration of why great ideas may fail to flourish simply because some folks are so myopic. In the hunger of the moment, they are uncomfortable to share their knowledge and expertise. The very idea of strategic partnerships is a frustration to their selfish end game. Such scenarios may be seen between countries, institutions, competing spouses, siblings, prospective business partners and the so-called superficial friends after the fact, even. Unfortunately, it is also these politicians often belonging to the same political party who may lose out on a possible deal. “Share a little with your neighbor and gain so much more after you seal that deal:” This is what I observe here as the missed opportunity.

In this video clip, our dear hungry friend Mr. Maluuza chooses to hide his food or what I see as the possible “deal/concept or breakthrough idea.” The observer and bystander or the ones who usually don't have any ideas are always on the sidelines-waiting for others like Maluuza to fail or lose. Bystanders or onlookers are not interested in helping but they will enjoy laughing and throwing stones. Unfortunately, even the one negotiating that deal as in this video clip, “our uninvited visitor,” is complicit in the way the outcomes are constructed. He appears so hungry and needy that perhaps his pathetic condition overshadows his negotiating skills. Meanwhile, Maluuza the owner of the concept or deal loses simply because he is so rigid. He does not want to share his ideas (food) with somebody else.

More so, beating the poor dog is counteractive. Magujja is innocent. Scolding Magujja is like kicking the walls and breaking your own bones. It’s like smashing your new console set and that $6,999.99 screen tv on which you watch your favorite game. You just got it on credit. Mr. Maluuza, you must appreciate the apparent fact that Magujja has just been available when the universe provided a scrumptious plate of food. Now, a good idea is stolen by an unlikely member or player in the marketplace. Because the parties concerned choose not to deal or reach comity, the idea dies underneath their nose. It is taken over and turned into something else it should in the first place never have been: just but “dog-food!” “Never give your food (Truth or Idea) to the dogs…," the Great Teacher in that Good Book says, I paraphrase.

If we all pay attention, we see that this Great Teacher’s statement is always true. In general, everyone loses. The one who has the food (Idea) and refuses to share it while eating some himself, (think cost benefits), loses all of it to lucky Magujja. It seems like in the end, Maluuza will not form any strategic partnerships today. While the dog is beaten, the idea just turns into tiny leftover bones. It does not develop into a solution. It is not going to see the light of day or benefit the parties concerned. It will never become a bigger project or program to positively impact the larger public interest. No impact development will be registered here.

Meanwhile, the woman who is just an onlooker represents the suppressed voices of many a woman in traditional roles. She could be a repressed housewife in one of those pristine suburbs of Western countries-a club commonly known as “Stepford Wives.” She might be an African or middle Eastern woman just sitting down. She cannot act because she has no power. She doesn't have any strong voice. Studies in Women in Development (WID) inform you more of the demise of this kind of woman. The other shirtless man who participates in the laugh is the bystander who is just but another character-bankrupt of any constructive ideas or input. A stereotypical non-starter at best.

On the other hand, do not underestimate these laughing bystanders. They might have a few tricks up their sleeve. Especially the bigoted types. After all, they have had most of their experiences always served to them on a silver platter. They have the power and resources to cause change, but they do not use any of it. Instead, they like to enjoy watching what's going on but just laugh, analyze and judge without lending a hand.

In the end, almost in this entire cast, everybody just turns out a loser. No one ever benefits from the possible energy that Maluuza may garner if he eats and gets satisfied. Ideally, we should want Maluuza to be fed well. Perhaps he would be rejuvenated enough to go back to work and help his family and community. He might be working for your company. If he is hungry, he is angry. He can’t perform like a rational human being. But unfortunately, he too failed to share. Now he is staying hungry. More so, very angry and chaotic that he vents-abusing innocent Magujja on our very watch.

How can we as a people work together? Instead of sabotaging each other including our own selves, how can we forge strategic partnerships? How do we bring about real development with mutual benefits to impact a larger group of people? That’s yours to answer.

So, what just happened again? I am just another stereotypical “Social Media User.” When I look at this video clip, I stop for a moment and check my attitude about this guilty pleasure. You may hate it or love it, but while social media seems to be a waste of many people’s time, some have quickly found a way to learn from it. Others profit from it. They sell their personal brand or product and turn into overnight millionaires. Others sway tens of millions-like in the case of the Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections. I recommend reading the article “Russian Social Media is the Modern-Day Trojan Horse,” by Adam Chiara, the assistant professor of communication at the University of Hartford. So, now I am rationalizing why I have just watched this clip from beginning to the end.

I have even considered one of the most devoted Twitter user of the 21st century who many, find either repugnant or revolutionary. Did he not use this social media tool to win elections, narrowly though-through the electoral college? Isn't he using it continuously to divide minds and conquer weak ones? Should anyone take him for granted because he is just a social media junkie? I muse. In fact, ask Katy Tur or just go ahead and read her New York Times Bestseller, “Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History.

I, therefore, justify my indulgence. After-all I am going to really squeeze meaning from this 5-minute video clip. I would like to think that I have learned a few lessons from it and this whole social media tool which I love and hate at the same time.

In the meantime, like our innocent Magujja, I suggest that you chew on that view for a moment. Just watch out for “part 2” of my next blog: “Understanding the Value of Strategic Partnerships: My Love and Hate Relationship with Social Media.” I will be more than happy to share some of the lessons I have learned from the video clip with you.

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