• Thursday, May 30, 2024
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The social media challenge and the season of anomie

Social Media

Dr Bode, Chief Medical Director of the Lagos University teaching hospital will remember the night I arrived with my three-year-old son who required surgery over twenty years ago. I had never met him but he was referred to as Mr Bode and we were told that he was a fine Doctor and had had some specialisations that made him bear Mr even as a Doctor, a higher field. I found him responsive and empathetic. For someone I had never met, he talked gently and assured me that my son would be fine. While I waited for that surgery to be over, I encountered a woman whose son had swallowed a coin. She was writhing on the floor. The Doctors at LUTH also assured her and both our sons were safe in the end. Those days were days of great service and kindness in Nigeria.

The parallel I would like to draw today is how online content is messing up that kindness and putting everyone on edge. I teach social media management and there is no doubt that as a tool, the positives are enormous. I have seen people benefit from quantum opportunities but I have also seen lives destroyed from the internet. Let’s take the 8-year-old who nearly died this week in the U.S. because he was attempting a Tik Tok challenge where a young person had swallowed a die (singular for dice) and then brought it back up. Since the 8-year-old could not find a die, she swallowed an American coin, a quarter, and had to be rushed to the emergency room. This whole scenario nearly killed her parents and literally nearly brought her life to an end.

In August, a 15-year-old named Chloe Philips in the U.S state of Oklahoma was pronounced dead after overdosing on antihistamines as part of “a Benadryl Tik Tok challenge.” This challenge was for people to ingest large amounts of medication in order to hallucinate. Most of the people who tried it were young and impressionable. They all got there from online activity. High-risk incidents online are occurring all over the world and several people have died as a result.

READ ALSO: #ENDSARS Protest: Nigeria’s $460bn GDP threatened as looting, destruction of businesses dotted Southwest

Cyberbullying is the number one sport for a lot of teenagers who are looking for attention and many victims have either gone into depression or have committed suicide because they are being bullied. Drug and sex trafficking gangs use the internet to groom and recruit youngsters for their nefarious activities. It’s a huge criminal ring and social media is the biggest space for playing those high stakes criminal games.

The death of anyone diminishes us all be they policemen or civilians. It is time to call a truce. The destruction is enough. We have a nation to build one block at a time, one citizen at a time, one leader at a time

But let’s bring it back home and see the role social media has been playing in the post- EndSARS riot. A rash of protests which had started peacefully ended up in many unspeakable tragedies and mind-numbing crimes. At the top of the week, the BBC on their site reported the many fake news items circulating online during the reportage of the EndSARS protest and in fact apologised for using some of them. So many of them, stuff that seemed to have legitimacy including but not limited to a young lady who seemed to be crying carrying a Nigerian flag was reported widely on social media.

The information therein was that her brother had died at the hands of SARS. It would seem that she never lost a brother, even though she had had some brush with SARS. Amazing! There were so many other stories that made it into the fake news list on the BBC site. Most of it photoshopped or images imported from an earlier event before the recent protests. Shocking how the various social media platforms are being abused at a time of introspection for both citizens and government. A time when the nation should look inwards and a time for all not to further escalate the pain when all we need now is to find that calm and peace and propagate it to all and sundry.

I teach International broadcasting and report writing at Bingham University and I find that part of my role as a Lecturer is to continue to preach peace to my young wards while encouraging them to engage peacefully no matter the anger. So this week we talked about the lootings going on and the destruction across the country. In an honest conversation, we shared our views. As I listened I began to hear the general narrative about how the hoodlums were not the initial protesters.

Of course most people know that. But then social media narratives indicate that many persons young and old who were engaging online, were directing hoodlums to where they can find the palliative warehouses. It was a stunned group of young persons I explained to that although they did not loot, those propagating and glamourizing theft and brigandage in whatever form cannot excuse themselves from the actions of those who actually went and looted.

Where we are today as a nation requires deep thought and self-introspection of all. Nigerians generally work hard but at this time, in this season of anomie, we are all looking for succour to heal us and even manage our mental health better so we can divest from the terrible stories circulating online most of which are untrue.

The death of anyone diminishes us all be they policemen or civilians. It is time to call a truce. The destruction is enough. We have a nation to build one block at a time, one citizen at a time, one leader at a time. Think before your re-tweet, before you repost that information you cannot verify. Do not be triggered by happiness online. It’s as bad as being trigger happy with a gun. In both cases people die. There is no competition in who posted the greatest number of sad news, untruths and rehashed four-year-old stories passing it off as today. It’s time to free your hands for prayers. Don’t be in a hurry to punch that button. Let us pray.