Social media has been the source of life for so many of us in both the developed and developing world. As we approached a new millennium our daily routines were replaced by mechanical devices and the problems created by this creative destruction led to a disturbance in our emotional and mental balance.
In the past, we were contented with the environment and never saw the need to seek artificial means of enjoyment. We could sit with ourselves for hours and not be bored. We could pick up a routine and do it without feeling out of place. We were close to nature and the fast life hadn’t caught up with us.
We got bored too but it wasn’t because our phones died or because the power supply that promised us constant Telemundo was cut off. We were bored because, you know, life happens. And then Social Media happened. No, I’m not talking about the first generation of social media that didn’t have the ingredients for addiction.
We had MySpace, Yahoo! Messenger, and ClassMates was there too but they all suffered the consequences of our technological advancements. There were phones but many ran on Java and Symbian Operating Systems (OS) and the few high-end phones, even though still built on weak chipsets, were overpriced.
But with the coming of cheaper phones with better specifications and the smartness, uniqueness, and aggressive marketing strategy of the new investors in the Social Media industry, limitless privileges were granted and recruits utilized it all. We were drunk in a form of power we never had and we kept drinking.
The new social media inventors were ruthless as they were opportunistic and they built the new brands in their radical image. While LinkedIn and MySpace dealt with professional stuff, these new ones allowed every thought, no matter how loving or irritating, space. It was home to radicals and rebels, crusaders and revolutionaries.
This elevated every form of argument. It gave the good guys a platform to speak but it also brought the madmen out of their hiding place. It was all about arguments and perspectives, quality doesn’t matter. Talk and rant if you feel like it, was the memo.
Good deeds got many views but also the bad done by everyone and societal leaders were exposed for all to see. Positivity and negativity were serenaded and people who usually washed their dirty linens in their bathrooms brought it out to the open field. It wasn’t entirely without grace.
Irrespective of what you thought, it was an interesting sight to behold. The weak and downtrodden whose voices were never heard now scream louder than they ever screamed their entire lives. The new Social Media came with fire and brimstone and it sharpened and burnt everyone, even those far away from the kitchen.
The physical reality was faced with a real contest and for once since the history of humanity, virtual reality somehow won. The problem it brought was problematic for all forms of relationships. Human communication was beyond words, because the face also can speak and because the difference between ‘You Dey Mad?’ and ‘You Dey Mad?’ cannot be deduced in a text, folks were distended.
It was both a destroyer and unifier and the men in politics saw the need to employ its services in delivering certain candidates to certain offices. It was a tool to destroy opponents and it was used in many creative ways. The truth is that social media was a good achievement for the government.
Distractions are useful to keep people away from their real problems. As long as they played online without disturbing the people in power they were useful. In fact, the people in power found it a great tool and used it in such a way that suggested the government hated competition.
You can insult anyone and project negativity but don’t bring it to the corridors of power. You can speak well of a politician but the moment you begin to speak the truth you start to blaspheme. But we crossed that damned line and with the spirit that converted us to disciples in the first place, we destroyed the cage they were trying to put us in and became online warriors. We became conquerors.
We committed a venial sin and insulted the government but it was a sweet sin. And before you begin to get it wrong, again, to the government, insult happens when you pay attention and call them out on what they ought to be doing but are not. We told them that the roads were deaths traps and even though we were not fully built in the cloak of fire, we traded the message on our new-found world.
It is true that the lives of some of us lacked meaning when we were first approached by the alternate universe but something big is happening in that universe to better the human world. The battle between the masses and the government has moved from natural reality to virtual reality and being in virtual reality it could distort the posture of things in the human world.
We learned how to master our pains even though our learning further enhanced our pains, we learned how to move on when our leaders put us in a stagnant spot, we learned that life here could be terrible but…if we focus our minds we could have our life in one dimension affect life in another…positively.
The government knows the power of a huge fellowship and most (evil) governments will always look for ways to shut it down. It happened in China when the people were almost on the verge of turning the system around and the government had to act to save their precious system from collapse.
They knew that a focused mass movement of people from such an aggressive and privileged system will bring them to naught. They knew that allowing such a place to exist with the uncensored comments it breeds will mark their doom so they acted to protect their interest and called it National Security.
In today’s Nigeria several groups (made up of politicians and their stooges) have been moving around soliciting and preaching the need to regulate or even abolish social media. According to them, it is a source of fake news (which is true) and could light the match that will burn the country aground.
They fear that our differences will overshadow our similarities and thus it is better we shut this thing off or it shuts us off. A naive observer will think they really mean well and are against hate speech and the fake news seeping from the virtual reality into the natural reality but what they are really after is that hate speech that directly puts them under scrutiny.
They hate to be placed under the lens and examined by both madmen and sane even though they don’t find it distasteful if their rival is at the other end. By thinking such ideas, the truth is, they are basically fighting for their lives. They know with focused repetition their lives could be at risk at the hands of those who have watched them eat up their nephews.
Just like the repercussion of the focused repetition of the atrocities of the cancerous police unit, SARS, they are afraid that one day Nigerians will stand up and give them something to think about. They are scared the masses will wake from their slumber and put them to sleep. They have been killing us directly and indirectly for years and the pretension of care or unity is only but an exercise in fear. They are scared already but the last thing they will do is to shut down social media. It is too strong an addiction to be replaced.