If you have been following events of the past few days then you should no longer feel the urge to argue when people talk about how powerful the media is. MEDIA IS POWERFUL! Period! The dictionary defines media as a main means of mass communication regarded collectively – Broadcasting, Publishing and the Internet.
The birth of the internet and by extension, social media has made life a little easy and given us an opportunity to rapidly demystify the idea of content and media in general, birthing what we now know as – New Media. Though with its many disadvantages, its advantages cannot be overemphasized. I personally believe that the level of positivity the new media impacts on the society has a lot to do with us Humans. You know what the oldest saying associated with the computer is – Garbage in Garbage out. It’s easy to sit back and blame social media for everything while forgetting the simple fact that without you and I (Human beings), what we now know as social media will not exist, neither will it be functional.
On the side of these platform owners, they create environment and tools to make communication faster and easier, to help us unite as one people and beyond monetizing these tools, that’s where it ends for them, really. They, to a large extent do not have the power to influence how we use these platforms or how we interact with each other. The things we pay attention to, the things we amplify and the content we give priority which then becomes priority to the algorithm of these platforms can only be controlled by us. Remember – Garbage in Garbage out. This is why I believe that subjects and courses around communication and etiquettes should be given a bit more attention in our education system.
Growing up in an average liberal Igbo home living in the southern part of Nigeria and the commercial city of the country – Lagos state, I was influenced by and experienced different culture. My mother whom I must say had the most influence in my life, grew up in the East and North. She was at a time in the palm kernel business even before her university days. So this meant her going on many trips from the East to the North. When she was ready to phase that part of her life out to further her education, she went ahead to choose the University of Maiduguri. So my mother was a proper Hausa babe. Speaking their language and loving them. She told me how nice the Hausas are and how she enjoyed her time in the North much more than she was doing in Lagos. If I remember clearly, she said Lagos happened because marriage and work transfer.
As much as I have heard many funny stories from the North, the ones I heard from my mother still makes me really fond of them. Interestingly, the closest I have ever been to the North is Abuja (I hope to change that this year). Most times, what you know about a particular tribe is a factor of what you saw on Television or the generalized tales which found its way to different households with zero help from social media. You have heard things like – Yorubas are fetish, Igbos eat people that are not from their tribe, Hausas are lazy and are always ready to die, Calabar girls are good in bed, igbo women are good wives, Yoruba women cheat on their husbands, prostitution is the Edo babe way of life, Igbo men make the best husbands, Igbo men are ritualists, Hausas are tribalistic…the list is endless. We know them, we have heard them and we believe many.
With social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook giving us room to initiative conversations to learn and unlearn, many have taken it upon themselves to correct these perceptions. I won’t deny that I think there could be some truth in some of these generalizations but it’s never the reality of every one from that particular tribe. It is always advisable to experience a person and restrict your finding for the knowledge of that person, not his or her entire lineage talk more of tribe or region.
While we are working hard and speaking to each other to correct the subtle hate and disunity these generalizations have brought into our beautiful Nation with its many diversities, I see many of us using the same social media to create new problems. One of those problems I foresee being a further taint on the image of Northern Nigerians. The major culprit in this case are small media owners who only think about engagements while paying zero attention to the impact of their content on the larger society and peoples orientation.
If you are on twitter, you know there is a group of people referred to as ‘Arewa twitter’. If there is one good thing I know about these set of people, its their beauty for when they decide to ‘pepper’ us on twitter. However, generally, many on twitter only get to hear and see the existence of this group of people when backward and stupid comments from a tiny section of that group gets amplified. I have seen people bring those screenshots to Whatsapp with a caption demanding that the Hausas be cut off from Nigeria because their point of view can be said to be backward and morally bankrupt. And to be very honest, I have felt this same way too.
So if we are still on the ‘one Nigeria’ goal, then I strongly suggest we (especially media owners) begin to think about how we report content from certain tribes, how we amplify them and the impact this might have in the nearest future. We cannot continue building on one hand and destroying with the other. Just as we love to distance ourselves from the fraudsters occasionally paraded on the media as Nigerian youths, there are reasonable people in the North beyond the little miscreants typing nonsense on Facebook and Twitter.
The New media should be to us, a tool to unite us and upgrade us from the ‘developing country’ status.