Two separate faux pas in vastly different climes stemming from posts in the virtual space produced regrettable outcomes—a police detainment—and a firing. Aftermaths that underscore the fact that social media isn’t an isolated platform or negligible medium and virtual recklessness in form of crass jokes or cheeky remarks are still liable to be punished. Recently, up-and-coming artiste, Naira Marley unwittingly initiated his own arrest when men of the anti-fraud agency, EFCC paid him an early morning visit and subsequently detained him because of his endorsement of fraudsters, popularly called “Yahoo Boys” while BBC radio and TV host, Danny Baker was fired by his employers on account of his apalling tweet regarding the royal newborn.
The two incidents beam the spotlight on the phenomenon that waltzed into our lives a couple of years ago and has now evolved from a platform that brings us closer to loved us to one that is deployed to perpetrate hate. Social media has defined us in many different ways and continues to form our habits and outlook on life. These days, the world as a global village has taken on a new meaning, people who seemed so far away can now be reached at the touch of a keypad. Celebrities, famous people and public figures who were once rare species hibernating in Ivory Towers are now only an @ away.
However, the flip side of this shrunken world is the magnification of everything that was once small. Time was when even if you knew your enemies, they were so far away that you could assume they did not exist. There were cliques of all forms, but you had the latitude to avoid them if you wanted. There are no such luxuries anymore.
Today, everyone and everything is in your face. You don’t have to be friends on Facebook or Twitter before you learn something about the next person. You could make an innocuous comment on a friend’s post only for a random individual to make it a point of duty to attack you. On the other hand, hitherto faceless personalities have become emboldened by the idea that they can spew inanities and cause pain to others with their comments without any repercussions.
The result is the combustible forum we now have to contend with rather than a place pervaded by camaraderie. Every day, insults and invectives are hurled, and hardly a week goes by without some kind of scandal or embarrassing scenario propagated by ubiquitous gossip blogs.
People have had their reputation torn to shreds on Twitter. And while you may consider yourself a non-candidate for such humiliation, it’s important to understand that even innocent folks have seen themselves being dragged into some controversy, much to their bewilderment.
It’s normal to feel torn sometimes—on one hand, social media has helped you connect with great people you may not have met in real life as well as build a thriving business, on the other hand— you are overwhelmed by all the shenanigans and mudslinging that’s a staple of the platform. And sometimes, you may be tempted to hop on the fray of savage and insensitive comments.
Yes, people get away with it all the time.
The laughs and the jibes and rude remarks targeted at others often make for hilarious memes and material for online comedians, but there’s such a thing as savagery gone too far. When Danny Baker posted that obnoxious tweet about baby Archie, he must have expected his teeming online audience to respond with a hearty laugh, but the opposite happened. He got endless flak instead and ended up losing a job he has held in various capacities for almost two decades. An unceremonious exit occasioned by ingrained racism or thoughtless humour. If Baker is racist as the tweet suggests, then there’s no higher display of pointed “I don’t careism” than projecting it for the world to see the way he did. Whichever way, it was a poor judgement call.
Naira Marley spoke up for fraudsters even though he claimed to not be one. By so doing, he won cheers from the social media mob who believe the proliferation of Yahoo boys is a reflection of the poverty levels in the country. But now that he languishes in police custody, he is alone. The cheers and applause have ceased, and faceless supporters have gone their way.
The lesson here? Social media is gaining more prominence daily. When you choose to deride others or become a voice for criminals just for the heck of it, you must be ready to bear the consequences. The fake accounts and people who have nothing to lose when the storm rises will even work overtime to discredit you whom they cheered on at first.
When others are getting high from their savagery, you take some time to consider your circumstances and position in society before participating in such silliness.
Circumspection is a skill that must be imbibed if one is to navigate the murky waters of the online space successfully.
Don’t be the next one to be made a scapegoat for the many sins of the social media trolls.