The age of social media
When Diana, the late princess of wales, was involved in the fatal accident that claimed her life in France, a paparazzi trailing her did the unthinkable. Rather than help the dying princess and her friend, Dodi el Fayed, he started clicking away with his camera dreaming of the millions he will get from those photos. He approached several newspaper houses in a bid to sell the photos to them. Unknown to him, his millions vanished when editors started calling one another and agreed not to use the pictures so as to protect the dignity of the dead.
Fast forward to the age of the social media and you’d definitely have a different ballgame altogether. On my way to Lagos from a trip to Benue State two years ago, we witnessed an accident right in front of us at the Ife-Ibadan expressway. Our driver stopped a few meters from the scene while we alighted to assist the victims. To my greatest surprise almost all the passengers immediately brought out their smartphones and started recording and snapping the scene!
Help only came from a gentleman and I who ventured into the wreckage to assist passengers we could visibly see were still alive. The gentleman called the FRSC in the process and they arrived thirty minutes later to take over the rescue effort. We had a heated argument later in the bus about the conduct of the other passengers. Unfortunately, most of them didn’t see anything wrong in their conduct!
From that incident, I started seeing the dark side of social media. A situation where the misfortune of an individual becomes “news” and opportunity to “thank god” by another should be worrying. I believe most readers can identify with this dilemma. You see it on Facebook where people post uncensored pictures of accident scenes on their walls with scant regard to the pains of the family members of such victims. This has remained the ugly side of the social media.
The social media, a platform for social interaction among people in which they create, share or exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks has radically altered the way we live and interact. Anchored on mobile and web-based technologies to create highly interactive platforms through which individuals and communities share, co-create, discuss, and modify user-generated content, it is indeed revolutionary. However, the issue with social media is that most people do not know how and where to draw the line.
It is not only about personal conducts; the social media is also changing the dynamics of politics and governance. With its overwhelming ability to connect the world through personalised devices, the social media has changed the way we see and understand the character of individuals and leaders. All over the world, individuals, leaders and their associates now maintain social media accounts, bypassing the orthodoxy of the traditional media and its commendable gatekeeping role.
Recollect that from the time former United States’ president, Barack Obama, began to use the social media in a more personable format, politicians now cash in on its strategic function of direct access to the public. I believe we will not forget in a hurry the “Fresh Air” campaign of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan who in 2010 used Facebook to announce his presidential bid taking the shine off his rivals who were scheduled to do the same earlier using the traditional media. His opponents were seen as “analog politicians” who cannot effectively “connect” with the youth. The rest, as we all know, is now history.
On the flip side; as much as social media has done a lot of good, the direct access leaders now have to the people now helps us see that they have clay feet as well. Suddenly, people are realising that they are “human” after all with all the foibles of being human. They can be jealous, vindictive, throw tantrum like kids, and whip up ethnic tension with scant regard for its repercussions. I can go on and on.
A classic example is the US President Donald Trump who has deprecated the essence of leadership through the impolitic tweets he sends out daily. According to Melanie, his wife, he never lets an insult pass him by. His Twitter storms reveal him as undisciplined, unregulated, and unhinged. At times, it looks like scenes out of a comic book, except it’s for real.
Who could ever imagine that a time would come that the president of the US would take to Twitter to directly comment on live TV shows and ratings, insult journalists using crude language, or insult women by saying blood is oozing out from their wherever? Even dictators who do not pretend they have regard for their people, such direct attacks are incomprehensible.
Where would one place a leader who can devote time and energy to playing the role of his own attack dog? Experts in PR, political communication and psychology are confused as his actions seem to defy known tested theories. An Ethics official who resigned recently said Trump has made America a “laughing stock.” Trump has revealed a dilemma that won’t go away anytime soon.
For those of us who grew up associating the US presidency with decency, dignity and moral integrity, Trump has taught us that it is possible for a man never to be ennobled by the eminence of the office he holds. With his Twitter rants that no one seem to know how to stop, he keeps showing to the world that the office cannot make a man who will not let the nobility of leadership refashion him.
Back home, there was a Facebook exchange between the wife of the President, Mrs. Aisha Buhari and the Senator of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) representing Kaduna Central, Shehu Sani, almost two weeks ago. For those who hold the view on social media that Nigeria is a ‘zoo,’ the exchange made their day and confirmed their belief that Nigeria is no better than a jungle.
It all started when Senator Sani posted a message on Mrs. Buhari’s Facebook wall, saying “prayer for the absent Lion King has waned. Until he’s back, then they will fall over each other to be on the front row of the palace temple. Now the hyenas and the jackals are scheming and talking to each other in whispers; still doubting whether the Lion King will be back or not. Now the Lion king is asleep and no other dare to confirm if he will wake up or not. It’s the wish of the Hyenas that the Lion King never wakes or come back so that they can be kings…”
In response, Mrs. Buhari – who is never shy of expressing strong, sometimes controversial political views – posted her own loaded message: “God has answered the prayers of the weaker animals. The hyenas and the jackals will soon be sent out of the kingdom. We strongly believe in the prayers and support of the weaker animals.”
Those who follow Senator Shehu Sani and his political allegory can piece things together to arrive at the conclusion of who the hyenas and jackals are. However, the reduction of the nation to the status of a zoo, a wild jungle in which all of us are seen in animal metaphor is rather unfortunate. Besides, while lions are regarded as the king of the jungle and the fiercest hunters of prey, it has also been established that any single lion can easily be brought down by a small group of hyenas, or a herd of buffalos can ensure they never have their way. Again, the social media has given us a sneak preview on what is going through the minds of our leaders.
Now that the PDP issue has been resolved and Alhaji Ahmed Makarfi is now the legitimate chairman of the party, we will begin to see our politicians in their true colours. Be getting ready for alignment and realignment as we inch closer to 2019. Also, gird your loins because the social media is going to be the battle ground as it was on the road to 2015. Unfortunately, the social media holds no captive as everyone is free to air his views, from the most serious to the mundane.