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  • Author: Nelson Obinna Omenugha x
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Abstract

Among others, the new media platforms are endowed with the capacity to reach wider targets of different demographic orientation; scattered at different geographical location. They also enable interaction between people; irrespective of location, religious divide and cultural inclination; ultimately for collaboration and socialization. For a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society like Nigeria which has unfortunately endured unending ethno-religious tensions from the onset, this paper attempts to examine the extent by which the new media (particularly the social media) provide the platform for such collaboration and socialization; particularly in removing the boundaries of ideological isolations and exposing young Nigerians to differing ideological worldviews which could help them renegotiate their ethnic and religious identity; moving from bigotry to tolerance? To answer this question, this paper investigated the new media usage patterns of young Nigerians with the view to assessing how much their use habit may have exposed them to this sort of socialization. Situated within the framework of the uses and gratifications theory, the study combined survey and focus group discussion (FGD) methods. A questionnaire was issued to 400 university undergraduates while two FGD sessions were carried out with 6 discussants in each session. Results showed that the Nigerian youths’ use of new media has exposed them to contact with ethnic and religious groups different from theirs, and that new media facilitates cross-ethnic and cross-religious learning as well as ethnic and religious tolerance among the youths. Hypotheses testing showed that the more the youths use the Internet the more they will be exposed to contact with ethnic and religious groups different from theirs and that the more the youths are exposed to online contact with such groups the more they will be tolerant towards them. It was concluded that the Internet could be a strong impetus for identity negotiation and renegotiation given that it affords the space for multicultural interaction and cross-fertilization of ideas, and so could serve as a potent tool for fostering cross-cultural understanding, tolerance and harmony in a multicultural society like Nigeria. The study recommended, among others, that efforts to achieve crossethnic and cross-religious tolerance and harmony in Nigeria shouldexplore the opportunities presented by the new media in this regard. Consequently, policymakers and other concerned institutions should work towards maximizing online cross-cultural contact and learning especially among the youths.