Social media has been incredibly useful tool in disseminating information in recent years especially in the case of Nigeria where useful information is scarce. This development has enabled lots of people who normally would not be involved in events around the country to now participate in the discussions of issues that affect their lives and in turn we have seen significant increase in the number of youths involved in social activism for the common good – grateful for the freedom of information and the invention of social media.
Now here is the tricky part – lots of Nigeria youths now have smart phones so they are on all kinds of apps connecting to friends and like-minded people both within and outside of the country with a few clicks. Maybe this is time to remind ourselves about the importance of being responsible especially in the way that we share information on very sensitive and important matters.
On Ebola virus – a couple of friends the other week decided to play a prank on people by sending messages that shower with salty water would prevent people from getting Ebola virus. One of the girls went ahead and sent instant message via BBM to her contacts. Within hours the false claim went viral like wildfire and annoyingly some local radio stations aired the information as if the claim was true.
It is very easy to assume no one would believe this sort of advice but the reality was many people did. On Saturday the 9th, a few hours after the prank broke I spoke to my dad to chat and by off chance asked if he heard about the false claim of salt shower – he did on the radio but didn’t think the claim was true. My mother always had evening shower so I asked her, she cheerily replied, “of course I just had a salt shower! better to be safe, abi?” I asked why she would do that knowing fully well she is on no-salt diet. She answered “the radio says so.” Oh, well that was a very bad joke that some irresponsible girls played on each other to see how gullible Nigerians were and not an official information from the health authority. My mother who is in her late seventies wondered why the radio station would announce such unverified claim. Thank goodness, the prank wasn’t that people should drink 100g of salt with water – could be worse. Maybe mother should have cross-checked the news.
With power of social media, comes responsibility. Time for Nigeria youths to read information received before forwarding/retweet? You will be doing less tweets/whatsapp/Facebook etc per day but at least information passed on to the masses will be for social good – that should be the best way of making use of social media.
I encountered another Nigeria social activist the other day who thinks the scare of Ebola virus in Nigeria has been taken out of proportion. Her thinking was that there are so many other contagious diseases floating around us for decades and we have not been wiped out yet using HIV/AIDS as an example. I was a bit concerned about this activist because she has 2,854 Facebook likes – with social media thought farts, lots of damage can be done here if her followers took her too seriously.
The difference between Ebola and HIV/AIDS in simpler term is that Ebola kills in a matter of weeks from the date of infection while HIV/AIDS kills slowly given plenty of time for the patients to get help and hope to live a bit longer, patients have low mortality rate with access to antiretroviral drugs while Ebola has 90% mortality rate for those infected – both contagious but more so for Ebola.
In Nigeria we do not take anything seriously until it gets out of hand. A couple of months ago, President Jonathan made confession that his administration has been handling Boko Haram insurgency with “kid gloves“ two weeks later, #BringBackOurGirls occurred, lots of other killings have been going on before and after that incidence and only yesterday or so were 100 boys kidnapped.
While government in all arms seem to be taking Ebola seriously now by setting up emergence clinics in every state which is a fantastic news. I do know that even if we took the cue from February when the first case broke out in Guinea, it still wouldn’t be out of proportion because we would have prevented needless deaths.
Social media has been fantastic but now we really do need to be responsible users too and at least read the text before passing it along.
I spotted “Thought Farts” from reading Opinionated Man post on the use of twitter, I immediately knew where the phrase best suited!