I stand to be corrected, but the social media may have arrived in the 1990s with the first most recognised being Hi-5. There was some reluctance to jump on the social media bandwagon at the initial stages especially in Nigeria, where most people were completely ignorant or could not just afford to get on the internet. The average Nigerian internet user basically used the internet for serious business and not mundane business like social media. Of course, in the 90s only the rich could afford having a computer and maybe internet at home.
It was almost impossible to see a cyber cafe with brand new computers at the time. The Cafes made use of CPUs and monitors, which were mostly dumped in Nigeria from Western countries. Visiting a cyber cafe then was quite cumbersome. I remember how we queued only to check emails. The norm was to have an operator sit with the computer which moved at snail speed, while people waited in turns to enter their addresses and passwords. Hi-5 with time became popular in Nigeria especially among the youths (mostly students). After Hi-5, came facebook, bebo, myspace, twitter etc and full embrace of social media by the world and Nigerians alike. A factor that sped up that embrace especially in Nigeria was the introduction of GSM operators who were licensed in August 2001. At first, only the well fed could afford phones and the operators’ charges. But today, all that is history. With the introduction of more GSM licences, mass shipment of phones (including smart phones), laptops, tablets etc into Nigeria, almost everyone now has a device and can easily use the social media.
I also embraced the social media too but significantly for a reason which I have in common with the founder of facebook, Mark Zukerberg. He founded facebook to meet the opposite sex. Most Nigerians, especially males, also embraced the social media for this reason too. I am sure our female counterparts can confirm the fact that they got and still get several friend requests from unknown males. If you want a bombardment of friend requests on social media, just put a picture of a beautiful lady on your display and you will experience what I am talking about. So generally, due to the random requests and acceptance, most people have ‘friends’ who they themselves sometimes wonder how they met because you have little or nothing in common. But the social media has a double-edged sword; you meet both very good and bad people.
Recently, especially on twitter and facebook, a lot of criticisms, accusations, counter-accusations and outright abuse have become very rampant especially amongst those who are politically conscious. I couldn’t help but single out one of the accusations and it goes thus: ‘Is anyone (especially a critic of the government) who blocks or deletes a ‘friend or follower’ because of criticism and abuse not behaving like the very government officials they themselves are criticising ?’ The accusation sometimes goes further and accuses them of hypocrisy, bigotry, intolerance and arrogance just as is possessed by an average Nigerian politician.
This makes me wonder: How much rights do we have to block or delete on social media especially because of criticism and abuse ? A euphemism for abuse could also be ‘freedom of speech’. Now everybody (especially those in democratic countries) have the right to speak freely. But freedom of speech should be within the limits of the law. The law in this context could be dictated by both the authorities and individuals.
Now, since we are talking of social media here, the authorities consist of the founders and the individuals who will be the owner of the profile or handle as it may apply on facebook or twitter respectively. I will focus on the laws of the individuals here. One thing to note here is that as expected, all individuals have an unwritten law. It doesn’t have to be stated publicly. Nobody on earth will like being punched or slapped. That does not have to be publicly stated. No one likes to be abused especially on their ‘property’.
I will use this analogy: any man will walk or chase out any abuser who comes into his house to insult him especially if the abuser is not well known or doesn’t pay his bills for him. For those who do not catch my drift yet, note this fact, a profile or handle is the property of the individual who opened it. He/she has a right to tolerate or not tolerate intrusion in whatever way he/she deems just like we all will do in our own houses or rooms.
Even in entrenched democracies, hecklers are bundled or walked out of public functions or buildings in spite of the fact that the public official uses the hecklers’ (supposedly a taxpayer’s) money for the function (i.e. build or rent the building/room). The point here is that it is about doing the right thing, at the right time and at the right place. Someone’s profile or timeline is definitely not the right place to be abused by someone else. So how do you now claim to have a right not to be deleted or blocked from someone else’s property after raining abuses on them especially when they don’t spend your money and are not accountable to you in any form? This applies to those criticised and those who criticise.
Of course, abusers will claim to have the right to ‘freedom of expression and speech’ but often leave out the fact that every individual also has a right to ‘freedom of association’. If anybody wants you out or off their property, they reserve the right to. No one is bound by any law to allow anyone follow or be friends with anyone on social media. As said in Nigeria sometimes: ‘Friendship no be by force’.
This makes me think– no one has the absolute right to abuse anyone on his property (profile or timeline) and not want to face the consequences meted out by the property owners. Thank you.
Kindly meet the writer on Twitter @beeshaiban