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The good, the bad and ugly side of social media networks

By Samson Ezea
11 March 2017   |   4:05 am
It would be recalled that before the coming of social media networks in Nigeria, Nigerians have relied on signs and symbols as major means of communication.

Social Media

It would be recalled that before the coming of social media networks in Nigeria, Nigerians have relied on signs and symbols as major means of communication. Also, receiving and sending telegrams, writing of letters and the use of analog telephones were the order of the day.

The technological innovation that brought about the Internet ushered in a new dawn in human communication channels. The Internet not only provided a bigger platform, it also became the mother of all inventions that gave rise to further development of different applications as well as software to make human jobs and communication much easier.

That was how the means of communicating with one another, sharing messages, photos and files became important. That quest was aided by the creation of Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Whatapps, Skype, Wikipedia, Linkedln, Reddit, Pinterest and others. These are innovations of different individuals who thought out of the box. Today, these inventors are not only billionaires, but forces to reckon with globally.

No doubt, social media networks were invented with the positive intention of easing communication and making every other thing that has to do with communication less cumbersome. For example, it helps in connecting with lost friends, making new ones and being constantly in touch with one another.

Social media networks have also been abused by users in many ways. Before now, school children and students wrote good letter writing, because they were tutored in the act of article and letter writing. They can easily make correct sentences. But today, many of these children can neither write nor speak good English, because of the negative influence and use of the social media.

With the introduction of the Blackberry, popularly known as “BB” into the Nigerian market by Research In Motion (RIM), the situation became worsened. Men, women and children spend half of their daily hours pinging with old and newly made friends. Some are so addicted to it that they eat with one hand and ping with the other. Some married women ping all through and forget to prepare dinner for their family or attend to their little babies. Some marriages were broken, because of the influence of the social media.

Many people have lost their Social Security Numbers and others have had their credit card information compromised. Several hearts have been broken; every now and then people are promised fake love on Twitter, Facebook etc. and at the end, their hopes and love are dashed and some killed in the process.

Trusts have been abused and people robbed of their valuables. People populate social media networks with horror and pornographic pictures, without considering that under-aged children visit them on a regular basis. This development has negatively influenced these under-aged children and has increased juvenile delinquency in the society.

Still fresh in memory of Nigerians is the case of an Abuja-based lady, late Miss Cynthia Osukogu, who met a man on Facebook and later travelled to Lagos to meet the man. But unfortunately for her, she was allegedly killed in a mysterious circumstance by the man in a hotel room at Amuwo-Odofin area of Lagos.

Also recently in Lagos, Operatives of the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) of the Lagos State Police Command arrested a woman in Agbor, Delta State for drugging her man friend in a hotel in Ojodu area of Lagos State, carting away his car, laptop and mobile phone.

Mitchel Harrold, 37, from Warri, Delta State, was arrested after the operatives traced her through a car dealer in Lagos.

It was alleged that the Harrold had on January 19, 2017 at about 5:30pm, together with her man friend, a medical doctor, who she met on social network called Badoo, checked into a popular hotel (name withheld) in Ojodu, Berger, with the plan to spend the night.

Harrold had after settling down allegedly gone to get a malt drink and yoghurt, while the boyfriend was taking his bath.

According to the victim (names withheld): “I went in to take a bath and when I returned, she had gone to buy some drinks. I took the malt drink and yoghurt and I slept off. I slept off at 6:00pm and woke up around 2:00pm.When I woke up, my laptop, car key and phone have gone.”

There are several cases like the above-mentioned ones across the country on daily basis. But they are not made public or reported in the media for fear of stigmatisation or victimisation. It is for this obvious reason that the Nigerian Senate sometime ago tried to pass a bill to regulate the use of the social media networks by Nigerians. Although the attempt was severely criticised by many people, some still believe that there is urgent need for such regulations, considering how the networks are being abused.

Social Media Week Pushes New Frontiers In Technology Development
By Adeyemi Adepetun
The 2017 Social Media Week (SMW) Lagos has come and gone. But it has left an indelible mark in ICT development in Nigeria.

SMW Lagos, which held at Landmark Event Centre, Oniru, from February 27 to March 3, was part of the global Social Media Week conference that occurred simultaneously in four cities: Hamburg, Germany; Jakarta, India; Lagos, Nigeria and New York, USA.

The week-long conference brought together thought leaders, key stakeholders and the public to explore and share ideas on how social media impacts industry, government, civil society and culture.

This year’s own was the fifth edition. It attracted people from all walks of life. The Executive Governor of Kaduna, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai; the Director-General, National Pension Commission (PenCom); Executive Director, Dangote Industries Limited, Halima Dangote; Nollywood Actress, Kate Henshaw; Music Artists, MI Abaga, among others.

The SMW Lagos has evolved into Africa’s largest digital media and business conference. During the five-day conference several topics were dissected.

At the opening ceremony, the Chief Product Officer at Facebook, Chris Cox, focused on using video as a tool for creating strategies, as a tool for creating immersive experiences.

According to him, users can leverage videos to create an authentic immersive experience, in a way that grows community around a particular niche.

At The Guardian hosted session, which focused on The Future of Digital Publishing: Breakthrough Storytelling-Content Marketing Today, the panel discussants, which included Creative Photographer, Kelechi Amadi-Obi; Founder, Tribe85 Productions, Jadesola Osiberu, and others, spoke on emerging trends in content creation and distribution; how to build a structured and effective content marketing plan; how content creators grow from creating in their own small niches to a more diverse audience; different platforms and working with brands; and how major brands are working with content creators to drive better outcomes in marketing sales and corporate communications.

For improved development in the ICT sector, panelists at another session also raised the need for the Federal Government to tackle high cost data and bridged infrastructure gaps in the country.

Suspected killers of Cynthia Udoka Osokogu at the Lagos High Court, Ikeja

According to the Client Service and Strategy Director, Ventra Media, Tomiwa Aladekomo, Nigerians should be creative in their story telling, “if we are to project Nigeria and indeed the African brand positively to the world.”

He stressed that live streaming can transform Nigeria’s media landscape if adequately explored, but Aladekomo was quick to mention that such adventure was still hugely challenged by high data cost and poor infrastructure in Nigeria.

Backing Aladekomo’s call for a fall in data cost in Nigeria, Film Maker and Creative Director, Ndani TV, Jadesola Oshiberu, noted that mobiles, especially the smartphones are turning people to global reporters, stressing that live video and streaming help pass the African message or story across.

At the Business Day-hosted session titled, ‘Perception and Reality: Harnessing Opportunities in Digital Journalism,’ panelists agreed that the transition from print to digital journalism is gradual and expensive process hence investors must ensure that there is viable business model if one is to succeed online.

Business Day Editor, Anthony Osae-Brown, highlighted that if one creates valuable content, people will be willing to pay to access such information.

While imploring traditional media journalists to learn to use digital tools such as social media, videos and photo editing in order to stay relevant, Chief Operating Officer, Red Media Africa, Sola Obagbemi, was quick to caution that the ethics of journalism must be preserved even in this fake news era.

She urged journalists to use social media, among other tools, to verify news stories before publishing.

Experts also X-rayed how mobile is driving digital payments at the event.

At the ‘Future of Payment and Impact on Businesses in Nigeria,’ hosted by Visa, the MD, Visa West Africa, Ade Ashaye, said customers are increasingly becoming digital. He stressed that the relevance of today was digital payment through mobile.

He explained that different types of payment were beginning to converge on the mobile phones, “whether it is Internet payment, which result in delivery of services or app payment at the supermarket or solutions such as Uber, all these services from different technology companies are converging on the consumers mobile phone.”

From his perspective, the Founder of Paga, Tayo Oviosu, the future of digital payment is enabling ubiquitous, seamless and interactive solutions with mobile technology being central to it.

Meanwhile, gender issues added colour to the week-long event.  For instance, speaking on the topic: ‘Using Technology & Social Media To Counter Violence Against Women And Girls,’ Coordinator, Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT), Mrs. Titilola Vivour-Adeniyi, said the issue of pornography should also be addressed in the Cybercrime Act 2015.

Vivour-Adeniyi said that there should always be legislations consistent with time, because violence against women and girls happened in different ways to curb the occurrence.

The Executive Director of Stand To End Rape (STER) initiative, Oluwaseun Osowobi, said that social media has contributed significantly to rape, violence against women and girls.

To counsellor at Mirabel Center, LASUTH, Mrs. Joy Onoriose, 70 per cent of perpetrators of violence on females and minors, especially, were familiar to their victims. She said mothers need to educate their children on what rape is, build their confidence to report any of such cases.

At a panel session, with the theme: ‘’Parenting in an era of Technology,” a session hosted by Women’s Technology Empowerment Centre (W.TEC), speakers urged parents to apply wisdom as they train their children in an era of technology.

The Founder of LagosMums, Mrs. Yetty Williams, said that today’s children were born in the computer age, hence, were more and better positioned to using technology.

Human Resource Consultant, Prof. Yomi Fawehinmi, said that parents should be aware of technologies and allow the children to use them. From her perspective, an educational technologist, Dr. Oluwakemi Olurinola, said that parents should help introduce the children to sites on the web that would assist them to develop.

Executive Director and daughter of Africa’s richest man, Halima Dangote, spoke on “Women in Technology Session” sponsored by Dangote Group. She identified a gender gap, saying more women need to be empowered and encouraged to take up roles in the tech sector.

However, despite the increased focus on gender gap in the work place and the society, significant gains have been recorded by organisations invested in integrating and empowering women entrepreneurs.

Dangote said worthy of note is the “Dangote Foundation multi-billion naira micro grant initiative,” which targets rural women across the federation. The women empowerment initiative provided financial resource to women beneficiaries and also cell-phones to help connect and share information in a progressive way.

Negative Side Of Social Media Networks
People naturally join social networking sites to catch up with old and current friends, to share life events and opinions, and to be part of a community in general.

Organisers of the Social Media Week, which ended in Lagos. PHOTO: FEMI ADEBESIN-KUTI

However, investigations have shown that these online communities, to some extent are not safe for nascent minds. Apart from academic decay, social media networks have promoted sexual immorality and covert prostitution to an alarming level. People have equally lost their hard earned fortunes through some interactions they had through the social media platforms.

Some of these platforms have equally led to the death of some people, who fell to the antics of their online assailants.

Social media abuse is not limited to this part of the world alone. Last year, in Blacksburg, Virginia, USA there was a report about a 13-year-old Nicole Lovell, who was found dead by the side of the road, three days after she disappeared in the middle of the night.

Report had it that in the months leading up to her death, the teen had been chatting with men on social media, and it has been reported that that was where she may have met the man charged with murdering her, 18-year-old Virginia Tech freshman David Eisenhauer.

Nicole’s father, David, said as soon as he learned about his daughter’s death, he “knew” that social media played a role. He said that around Christmas, he and Nicole’s mother learned that the teen had been frequenting various chat sites.

“We found out that Nicole had been on social media talking to inappropriate people. For a 13-year-old little girl, I thought some of the things that were said were inappropriate from my daughter,” David said in a report.

Among her social media activities, Lovell said Nicole was chatting on the popular messaging app Kik, which is reportedly used by as many as 40 per cent of American teenagers.

Indeed, the social media has enormous advantages, but also comes with its own demerits.

Speaking to The Guardian, a telecoms expert, Kehinde Aluko, noted that social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace allow you to find and connect with just about anyone, from a coworker in a neighbouring cube to the girl whom you attended secondary school together 30 years ago, saying browsing these sites can make you feel connected to a larger community, but such easy, casual connection in an electronic environment can also have its downside.

Quoting Cornell University’s report on social media, Aluko said social media sites could make it more difficult for us to distinguish between the meaningful relationships we foster in the real world, and the numerous casual relationships formed through the platform.

By focusing so much of our time and psychic energy on these less meaningful relationships, our most important connections, he fears, will weaken.

Another issued raised by Aluko is the Cyber-bullying. He explained that the immediacy provided by social media is available to predators as well as friends. He stressed that kids especially are vulnerable to the practice of cyber-bullying in which the perpetrators, anonymously or even posing as people their victims trust, terrorize individuals in front of their peers.

“The devastation of these online attacks can leave deep mental scars. In several well-publicized cases, victims have even been driven to suicide. The anonymity afforded online can bring out dark impulses that might otherwise be suppressed. Cyber-bullying has spread widely among youths, with 42 per cent reporting that they have been victims in the time past.”

Aluko also hinted that social media platforms decreased productivity. He said while many businesses use social networking sites to find and communicate with clients, the sites can also prove a great distraction to employees who may show more interest in what their friends are posting than in their work tasks.

According to him, Wired.com posted two studies which demonstrated damage to productivity caused by social networking: Nucleus Research reported that Facebook shaves 1.5 per cent off office productivity while Morse claimed that British companies lost 2.2 billion Euros a year to the social phenomenon.

Talking about privacy, he observed that said social networking sites encourage people to be more public about their personal lives. “Because intimate details of our lives can be posted so easily, users are prone to bypass the filters they might normally employ when talking about their private lives. What’s more, the things they post remain available indefinitely. While at one moment a photo of friends doing shots at a party may seem harmless, the image may appear less attractive in the context of an employer doing a background check. While most sites allow their users to control who sees the things they’ve posted, such limitations are often forgotten, can be difficult to control or don’t work as well as advertised.”

From his perspectives, the Director-General, Delta State Innovation Hub (DSHUB), Chris Uwaje, said predominantly, the first principle of social media is about information dissemination, which is one that governs human development.

Uwaje said social media doesn’t have the cohesiveness and truth layer. However, the DSHUB boss predicted that social media would in the future be embedded with truth layer. He noted that today, everybody is enjoying the freedom of communicating because a governance culture is missing. “I think by now, we should calibrate and govern it. We should not just be examining the negativity. It should be how we make the platform improve lives. It is amazing to know how this has become addictive in our society today.”

According to him, “the bottom-line should be about making social media better through a truth layer, which without it; it makes people to become to peddlers of anyhow news.”

Uwaje, who said to examine the negative side of social media, there was need to get to the beginning of the revolution so as to be able to put things in proper perspective, however, said “ the very bad aspect of it is how people commit suicide through the platform. People are also getting training on how to build atomic bomb; the state now uses it to manipulate things. The Big Brother thing is another down side of it.”

To him, there is need to a draw a line on frequency of use and what should come online. “Like I said earlier, a truth layer is missing in social media. But I am sure that it will be embedded in the platform in the future.”

To an ardent Internet user, Jolade Kosoko, with social media, this false sense of comfort and trust can be very misleading. “We know couples who met on Facebook or BBM groups and are still together. If you ask them if they took security measures to protect themselves when they first met, many will confess that they did not. We hear of friendships built on twitter and BBM, where the first meeting was in the home of one of the friends. The truth is anything can happen. You have to be savvy and wise.”

Nigeria’s Interior Minister, Abdulrahman Dambazau, also blamed social media for escalating herdsmen/farmers clashes across the country.