A popular Nigerian Comedian was once asked how he feels when he cracks jokes and no one laughs or claps in return and he said: “It throws one off balance and is never encouraging.” This kind of feeling is not different from what happens to someone who shares information on a certain social media platform without corresponding feedback. To be sure, feedback plays a fundamental role in the communication process. It completes the cycle of communication since communication is a continuous process. For Susan E. DeFrazo a blogger, the term feedback is used to describe useful information or criticism about prior action or behaviour from an individual, communicated to another individual (or a group) who can use it to improve current and future actions and behaviours. This rendering underscores the benefits of feedback to both sender and receiver.
Users of social networking sites often deploy feedback when commenting on a post or using emoji to reply or like information that is shared. Every time we chat someone, that communication elicits feedback. In actuality, it is impossible not to give feedback because feedback is contained in every action or inaction – it can be verbal and non-verbal. Feedback can be accessed from the desired intention. Little wonder, in his book titled: Self-theories -Their role in motivation, personality and development, Dweck (1999) opines that feedback should focus not only on ability but also on objectives and the development of the ideas. He argues that prompt feedback stimulates meta-cognitive ambition in learners and inspires them to pursue higher goals even when the level of learning becomes more and more difficult to assimilate.
Whether feedback is given and received verbally or via a non-verbal manner, the person who provides it needs to have a degree of understanding. The individual also needs to know that feedback could be positive or negative. Both positive and negative feedback has huge implications in the learning process. Kluger and DeNisi (1996) demonstrated that positive and negative feedback enhance learning provided that the feedback contains enough information to allow learners to acknowledge what is right or wrong in their performance or understanding. For users of social media, continuous feedback is beneficial because it helps to create strategies, develop ideas and improve information-sharing or relationships. Since continuous learning is the key to improvement, social networking sites are now leveraging on feedback as an effective mechanism for learning.
Can feedback be requested? Yes! Feedback can be requested in every form of communication. Asking for feedback can actually facilitate learning and acquisition of knowledge. Some scholars are of the opinion that those who use social media often feel valued and appreciate when asked to provide feedback. This fast-tracks exchange of ideas and speedily helps in improving someone’s capacity to learn. Studies suggest that feedback from friends leads to a better working relationship and accelerates learning progressively. A researcher, Su Iong Kio holds that feedback through social media platforms like Facebook is not limited to information but includes motivation and encouragement. He contends that mutual support for each other through motivation is a major element of feedback which increases self-confidence.
Feedback represents a commitment to effective learning process especially when it is positive. Positive feedback is offered out of a commitment to the receiver. It is meant to help the sender of an information to learn and grow. This means that the sender of feedback needs to be prepared to relate on an ongoing basis and offer further comments to indicate improvement against the previous state. For example, a young student shared a rich experience of solving assignments via Facebook. He said whenever he finds it difficult to understand his homework, he immediately posts it on Facebook where his friends and school mates provide the answer in a jiffy. The challenge is that sometimes one would get many answers and not be sure which one is correct – The advantage is that at least it provides a leeway for someone to solve a problem. As such, parents, guardians and teachers can assume their educational responsibilities to teach their children or wards the required skills for engaging with social networking sites.
This columnist is of the view that Social Media can be an efficient feedback tool for learning especially when communication is effectively initiated by the sender and completed by the recipient. Advances in content creation make social networking most convenient for initiating and completing the feedback process effectively. Participation is key because it involves giving input and responding to issues. We saw that feedback exists as an essential part of learning in human communication to increase knowledge acquisition and sharing. Communication experts seem to agree that it is impossible to grow in the learning process without feedback. This is because positive feedback boosts people’s morale and confidence to improve and grow. Negative feedback can also actually be constructive since it helps people to make better decisions towards improving their learning. Since not to learn is itself learning of some sort, whether viewed with a positive or negative lens, timely feedback is an effective learning tool.
Fr. Wache is a Priest of the Catholic Diocese of Yola who is currently a Masters Student specializing in Pastoral Communication at the Centre for the Study of African Culture and Communication (CESACC), Catholic Institute of West Africa, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.