I Refuse Remaining a Slave in my Life

A Qualitative Inquiry into Anglophone Youths’ Engagements with Social Media in Relation to Political Change in Cameroon

“ENOUGH! Biya Must Go!”, “2011 NO FEAR REVOLUTION CAMEROON” and “CAMEROON YOUTHS FOR CHANGE” are among the several dozen Facebook groups which have been set up in pursuit of political change in Cameroon since late 2010. The majority of such groups enjoy relatively short lives and swiftly disappear into oblivion. Yet some of the Facebook groups aimed to resist the political status quo in the country have managed to attract up to several thousand members, and maintain interactivity for longer periods of time.

In 2011, a year during which presidential elections were to be held in the country, social media have been employed for political activism on a larger scale for the first time in Cameroon. As I conceptualized this research project during the aftermath of the Arab Spring, Cameroonians residing in- and outside of Cameroon engaged in political discussion on newly created Facebook group walls. Global and local political news and viewpoints were disseminated. Critical voices arose over the political regime of Paul Biya, the authoritarian president of the country since 1982. Various ideas for the creation of political change in the country were advanced by individuals through Facebook groups.

Meanwhile, academics struggled to come to terms with the relationship between appropriations of social media and the creation of socio-political change, often focusing on the “impact” or “effect” of social media activism on ‘real life’. Rather than to separate appropriations of social media from other aspects of life and/or forms of political activism, this study aims to shed light on the ways in which the logics of social media activism intermingle with locally and globally constructed patterns of power and communication. Emphasis of the research has been placed on qualitative methods in an attempt to sketch a holistic picture of the interrelationships between social media appropriations and constructions of social and political meaning, power relations, and increasing trans-nationalization of communities.

Some of the central questions of this study are:

  • “Who are the actors involved in these social media political activities, and why are they involved?”
  • “How do these actors view their position within society/ies?”
  • “How are the ‘online’ networks of these actors related to their ‘offline’ lives and engagements?”

The empirical study aspires to increase our understanding of ‘social media networks for political change’ in its initial stages.