This piece, written by Tunde Leye, has already been published on Ynaija.com.
One of the worst diseases a person can have is possessing an over-bloated opinion of one’s importance. Reality has a way of cutting us down to size in the most drastic of ways when we do. Fans of the HBO series Game of Thrones will recall how Viserys Targaryen, brother to Daenerys had this ailment. In his own imagination, he was the dragon king, the rightful king of Westeroos and could command an army. In the eyes of Khaal Drogo and the Dothraki (which was closer to reality) he was a beggar, didn’t have any dragons and a nobody. He did not learn that lesson until the disaster of his death by having molten gold poured down his throat befell him.
In many ways, the scenario painted above is a reflection of a dichotomy that exists today. A lot of people have become so caught up in the social media world that they begin to carry an unhealthy sense of their own importance in the offline world. But often, reality happens, and makes us realize how things really are. What is worse is that many people today forget the simple courtesies of life due to the instant reach of social media to people they would otherwise not have access to any other way. While the access in itself is not bad, allowing the maxim that familiarity breeds contempt to hold true for them once they have access is a problem. We let the screen of computer systems, mobile phones and the internet make us lose our senses and speak to people that we would never address in such a manner in real life. We effectively allow social media to make us lose our heads.
It is normal for people to lose their heads every now and then. However, wise people try very hard to ensure that these incidents are not documented. For example, we do not know how many times Solange has gone ballistic on Jay Z. But once documented, it is always there. Many of us fail to realize that every single uncouth and unthinking tweet, Facebook or blog post, YouTube video and Instagram image is a documentation of the loss of our heads. The belly of the internet is deep and it never forgets. Once you put it out there, it is documented and you really never can tell when it will haunt you. It is why I am waiting to see the outcome of this Deschamps suit against Samir Nasri’s girlfriend for her twitter outbursts.
A lot of people also have the illusion that “it’s just twitter” or “what happens online doesn’t really impact my offline life”. Nothing could be further from the truth. Think about it – if our online agitations for #BringBackOurGirls and #FreeCiaxon translated into a force for good and real world actions and reactions, do we assume that our other tweets and interactions with other tweeps do not have potential real world eventualities? Recall the Justine Sacco “I hope I don’t get AIDs” tweet and how it truncated her career? That might have been a popular case, but I can tell you for free there are more of such incidences happening daily that don’t have as much publicity. It pays to be decorous and treat people properly on social media. I will share a personal story to illustrate how close to home this gets. I will not mention handles to prevent Umu twitter from going in on anyone though.
For a long time after I opened my twitter account in 2009, I couldn’t be bothered about what went on there. In fact, it was promoting my writing in 2012 that made me become active on twitter. In that three year “unserious about twitter” period, I doubt I had up to a hundred followers. There was a young lady I followed because I thought she was interesting, but I noticed she was exceptionally rude to people, especially those she felt were beneath her twitter followership status of slightly over a thousand followers. One day, she tweeted something about a decision she wanted to make and I responded by telling her what I would do if I were in her shoes. I do not understand what ticked her off – whether it was the audacity of a less than hundred follower tweep or the fact that I was wearing a suit in my then AVI, she responded to my tweets abusively and with derision and then did what was in vogue then. First she tweeted in caps BLOCKED!!! @tundeleye and then went ahead to block me. I shook my head and went on with my day.
A couple of months later, I was the lead of a four man interview panel for entry level recruits in a financial institution I worked for. We had interviewed about fifteen fresh from NYSC graduates, when the same lady walked in. The moment she saw me, I knew she recognized me too. She became discomfited and ended up fumbling through the interview. I believe if she wasn’t plagued with the guilty conscience over her twitter behavior, she would have performed better during that session. I tried to be lenient in my grading of her interview sheet so I recommended her for the next phase of interviews. I was trying to compensate for my potential bias due to our online interaction. My three other colleagues weren’t privy to all that and graded her objectively based on her interview performance and declined recommending her for the next phase. She lost the job opportunity. This happened here in Nigeria.
It doesn’t cost much to behave properly. In fact, most of us are courteous and will not dare speak to people we meet in person the way we do online. So it really takes a simple step – remember there are real, breathing, living people behind social media accounts. And you might meet them one day.
Written by Tunde Leye