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Pity Not The Morons With The Smartphones, By Akin Olaniyan

September 18, 2023

In today's digital age, the power of social media has given anyone with a smartphone the ability to share their lives with the world. While this newfound connectivity is a blessing, it can also be a curse when wielded by individuals who prioritize clout-chasing over ethics and respect.

In a world where social media dominates our daily lives, we often find ourselves grappling with its undeniable influence, both positive and negative.

Social media platforms have connected us in ways we could not have imagined a few decades ago. They allow us to express ourselves, connect with friends and family, and even build careers.

However, this connectivity comes at a price – the relentless pursuit of validation and affirmation from our online peers.

Give any moron a smartphone and anything and everything becomes content. To such a fellow, clout-chasing is an end in itself, and the smartphone just makes it super-easy. That is essentially the foundation for the explosion in vloggers and other content creators, most of whom specialise in things on which they are ignorant but over which they insist on running commentaries. I am tempted to believe that their choice of subjects reflects their intellect, with the more empty-headed being the most daring.

With the advent of social media platforms, the desire for attention, followers, and likes has led some individuals down a questionable path. By the way, clout-chasers are those who prioritise gaining attention and notoriety over the responsible and ethical use of social media.

They often resort to sensationalising and exploiting sensitive situations for the sake of gaining followers and likes. When clout-chasing folks see a drowning man, they don’t see a soul at the end of hope but content that will bring more like and follows. To the moron with the smartphone, a child trapped in an accidented car, with only a faint hope of surviving through help arriving on time is even better content that guarantees loads of shares and improve clout. And the most potent and toxic content of them all? Sex. That sacred glue for intimacy between consenting adults that until most recently used to be reserved for the inner chambers.

Thanks to clout-chasers, even what used to be a sacred intimate session between a man and a woman is fast becoming content for ogling followers. The morons with the smartphones annoy us all on many fronts but I will focus on just three of them:

First, one concerning aspect of clout-chasing is the tendency to turn tragedies into content. Instead of offering help or empathy to those in distress, some clout-chasers see a tragedy as an opportunity to garner attention. This includes recording accidents, emergencies, or even personal crises, all in the pursuit of online popularity. Second, clout chasers also benefit from insensitive commentaries, sometimes bordering on the incendiary.

Many clout-chasers are quick to provide commentary on subjects about which they have little knowledge or expertise. This not only misinforms their audience but also perpetuates misinformation. Whether it is offering medical advice without qualifications or discussing complex social issues without understanding, this behaviour can have real-world consequences.

However, the third and by far the most annoying of them all by a mile would have to be the invasion of privacy. The quest for clout often leads to a disregard for personal boundaries and privacy. People's private moments, relationships, and even intimate encounters have become fodder for public consumption, eroding the concept of personal boundaries. Unsurprisingly, the morons with the smartphone have found the tribe of vulnerable, insecure women a hugely profitable hunting ground, profiting from the penchant of some Nigerian women who think it is cool to record sexual acts on their smartphones or mobile devices.

One quick point here. True, there is no suggestion here that this is a problem unique to women. Well-known Nigerian male artistes including Oxlade, Small Doctor and Wande Cole have also suffered the embarrassment of having their most intimate videos leaked. 

However, as women are usually portrayed as victims, it sure makes more sense to interrogate why this is the case.  

Is there any chance at all that some of them are complicit? The fast-paced and permissive environment of social media appears to have pushed the limits for what would be considered as shocking, and it looks as if some of our women are willing to take the risk.

When the late politician and sociologist Daniel Patrick Moynihan coined the terms, ‘defining deviancy down’ to describe the way societies responded to destructive behaviours by lowering the standard for what was permissible, he probably had the social media era in mind.

I mean nothing shocks us anymore. The alarming trend of so-called micro-celebrities like Esther Rachael, who are being caught up in leaked sex tapes not only highlights issues of consent and trust but also underscores the negative impact of social media on individuals, particularly women, who seek validation from their online followers. I know the sentiment is to think of such women as victims and I understand.

However, if you look at the long list of the Nigerian women who have been involved, you will struggle with your belief that they are anything but clout chasers some of whom you would certainly wager a bet that they orchestrated the leak.

The response from Moyo Lawal, the latest of Nigerian celebrities to suffer the indignity of a sex video leak, suggests she aims to profit from the event. That is reasonable to believe, because for clout chasers, bad publicity is good publicity. I don’t even need the so-called assertion of her male partner that he was paid for the shoot because the entire leak fits perfectly into the strategy of a desperate woman whose career needer a boost.

Going by body language alone, and I use the phrase in its literal sense, you could tell that she wanted it (no pun intended here). Regardless of her intentions, and whatever she hopes to achieve through this, I still see her as a poor soul who needs help.

The incidence of Tiwa Savage’s video leak at a time when she had an album scheduled for release strengthens this line of thought. I know, many will object but let me explain. Many poor women like Moyo feel immense pressure to present themselves in a particular light on social media. This often includes showcasing their bodies, relationships, and even intimacy to gain likes, comments, and followers. Like Kim Kardashian and those who have copied her playbook, there’s little else they have to offer but their nice bodies.

It is a vicious cycle where individuals feel the need to continually outdo themselves for validation. The sad thing is that these morons with the smartphones don’t even know they are harming themselves. Their eyes might be on the clicks and the money it guarantees but there are drawbacks, and I will start with the most obvious but often ignored.

I have repeatedly warned the morons with the smartphones that communication in the digital realm is different and that is mostly because of unique features that ensures that the Internet never forgets. Communication in the digital realm is persistent, meaning it is automatically recorded; replicable, meaning it can be duplicated; scalable, meaning you lose control because visibility increases with each click and share; then searchable, meaning it can be accessed through search. In plain language, the morons with the smartphone might think they are just ‘catching cruise,’ but those pieces of content have a shelf-life that probably will outlive them, and they just might find out only when it is too late.

And that is not to mention the immediate side effects of a life lived recklessly chasing clout. The relentless pursuit of online validation can lead to depression and anxiety, occasioned by feelings of inadequacy, jealousy when the desired response is not achieved. This is in addition to relationship strains, insecurity, and, in some cases, betrayal, all, of which are visible in Moyo’s case.

Yet, even if we ignore the harm, they are doing to themselves, the rise of clout-chasing has broader implications for society. It fosters a culture of voyeurism, where the line between personal life and public spectacle blurs. Notice the increasing number of cases of young women who are willing to push the limits of decency to reach the levels of Kim Kardashian and you get the point that deviants like Moyo and other clout-chasers should be told in clear terms that they have a responsibility to the other morons with smartphone and ignorant Kardashian wanabes following them to clean up their acts.

Akin Olaniyan (PhD), Convener, the Centre for Social Media Research. specialises in Digital Cultures.