BusinessDay
NigeriaDecides2023

The ethics of social media focus groups

I belong to quite a few of them myself, alumni groups, family group chats, office group chats and lately some interesting Aso-Ebi group chats as well as fundraising group chats for weddings, naming ceremonies etcetera. I only do WhatsApp but I reckon there are many more on other social media platforms where I am missing in action. Recently, I got on a limited edition Instagram lol. But here is the thing, there must be ethics for how you engage on these platforms that make it mutually beneficial even if it’s in a fun way but what I find sometimes bothers on the bizarre and other times plain ridiculous. In other instances, I find that it borders on failure to respect people’s privacy boundaries, plain and simple while others still take liberty for license and use language that should never see the light of day never mind replicated and rebroadcast.

So let’s start from the beginning, shall we?

In today’s digital age, there is pressure for everyone to get on board. The benefits are unbelievable. Social media marketing has taken a life of its own and so many entrepreneurs are traversing the net with their goods and services and doing exceptionally well. Influencers are living large and making super money by being able to get gazillions of people to follow them while selling those followers goods and services provided by their clients by boasting of the number of followers they have and driving traffic from their page to that of their clients. It’s all very surreal. But it works. Reality shows are thriving on who gets the most vote, not necessarily who is the most talented and focus groups have learnt how to help their candidates by getting the votes by whatever means, it’s all very modern but a little confusing to me. So we vote one million times to get our candidate in even if he is not the most talented, that’s okay. I may not understand it as at one year short of sixty, I am considered fairly old fashioned but then that’s also okay.

Someone has to explain to me why a friend’s friend who I don’t know, has suddenly added me to a list of friends contributing to her mum’s burial

Give me talent any day is all I say even if they have no one voting for them. So let’s leave that for a while and arrive at the group chat. Someone has to explain to me why a friend’s friend who I don’t know, has suddenly added me to a list of friends contributing to her mum’s burial. I don’t know this lady and my phone is filled up with all manners of texts and pictures and emojis about how important it is to contribute, yet I don’t know her. Who added me? That person crossed the privacy line. They do not have my consent to put me in this group. There is no informed consent and all of a sudden my digital trace in the hands of so many people that I do not know. Yep, they can now see my status and my private pictures and my life therein. Unacceptable! I am not a friend of this woman and now my number has been shared with fifty other people whom I do not know. Ludicrous!

What about a professional group chat now turned into a market or a church or a movie house? Why are you able to clog my space with a dog drinking a bottled beer or a yelling Pastor or Imam preaching Armageddon and why should your pretty cousins birthday concern me? On the group chat for a friend that passed the other day someone began to post political comments and religious views. No ma, no sir, this is a sober chat group, selling your market here is not on.

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Then the problem I have with the ones for some playmates and friends is that they want you to comment on every joke and every comment and every gaffe. Is it me or why do I feel suddenly pressured to say my piece? At first, it sounds interesting and I go along. After a week or two, I am no longer able to feel the buzz anymore. I do not want to wake up to a joke to which I must reply or someone asks are you not there. I am not interested in being cool through internet pressure. I have a morning routine and responding to an off-colour joke after my prayers is not one of them. In the first two weeks, it’s okay by the third week it becomes work. Scholars of Mass Communication describe online as an active space where you have to physically engage, click, send, create, build, edit, respond. For television, you can be passive, you really do not do anything but watch and the remote control does most of it. The internet provides some sort of information overload that requires discipline. Any wonder some people are addicted and live on the web. That is not me. I have things to do.

Some of the etiquettes of new technology require that you ask someone’s permission before you add them to a group. Do not give people’s numbers out without their permission. Do not add your personal junk to a group chat. Do not expose your family to a professional group chat. Do not add religion to any chat, except it’s a friendly place with your friends and family where you can send quotes that are inspiring from time to time. Do not sell your vegetables on an office chat. It’s a no, no!

Do not try to sell me your business development plan and do not add me to random group chats about selling electronic, laces or a mind reader masterclass. Be mindful of the group you are on and do be mindful of people like me. I will exit if you did not ask me and show everyone on the group chat what a professional neophyte you are. Enough said!

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