Looking at the way Nigerians use and abuse social media and communication general, I have always wondered if technology is a curse or blessing. This is so because what Nigerians do in the name of communication and on social media leaves much to be desired. Most times, it is mischievous and destructive. At other times, it is outright foolish.
Some days ago, I was on a flight and what I would call a “drama” ensued. As the passengers were boarding, the engine of the plane went off. When boarding was completed, the pilot announced that the engine actually shut down by itself and that the airline crew was waiting for the airport personnel to power the engine. The pilot gave assurances that as soon as the engine was activated, the flight would take off.
Personally, I did not consider what happened or what the pilot said as an issue. I reckoned that, if the pilot made the announcement without any panic or doubt in his mind and voice, it meant there was really nothing wrong, in the true sense of it. In any case, not being an aviation expert, I never bothered with the jargon about the airport personnel coming to “power” the aircraft.
However, as we waited, some passengers started making calls to their friends or family members, telling them that the engine of the aircraft they boarded had shut down and that the airport officials were going to use “generator” to start the engine. Not just one, two or three passengers made the phone call, but many of them. One particular passenger told the person he called that he had never heard where a “generator” was used to power a plane, warning the person on the other side not to ever buy flight ticket of the airline for him. He promised whoever he called that he would disembark, take a shot of the process of starting the plane’s engine and send to him. Some of the passengers actually went on social media to “break” the “big” news.
Eventually, the plane’s engine started running. Everybody settled down. The door of the plane was shut and we had a smooth flight to Lagos, touching down before 8pm. In Lagos, my inquiry about what the pilot was taking about strengthened my conviction that there was no cause for alarm. I was told that what happened was not strange in the aviation industry.
I must say that while my fellow passengers were calling people on phone, I could not help but wonder what they wanted to achieve. Pray, what did these people achieve by making those calls and going on social media? Was it to be on top of news? Was it to raise panic in the minds of those they were calling? Was it for the people they called to come and help? Was it out of fear? Was it to tip off people or prepare their minds about a “coming” air disaster?
To show that the action was uncalled for, the people who made those phone calls or went on social media later sat down quietly as soon as the plane’s engine started running and enjoyed their flight. They did not achieve anything positive other than causing unnecessary anxiety and panic. If I were the person who received the phone call, not being on the scene, the natural reaction would be to fear that something would go wrong with the flight. Perhaps, one would tell the caller to disembark from the plane. And if the person who called would stay put and take the flight, the call receiver would certainly be in a state of panic while the flight lasted. The person would have a rise in blood pressure and there is the possibility of a heart attack, in the case of someone with a weak heart.
People should not get too anxious or excited about things, especially those they do not understand or have control over. There was a case of a plane passenger who had a turbulent flight. In his panic, he switched on his phone and sent a short message (SMS) to his wife, telling her that, going by the situation of the flight, he was not sure they would survive. He, therefore, stated: “Please take care of the children.” Eventually, the plane landed safely at its destination. The question is: What would the man have done if the woman who received the message had suffered a heart attack and died, while the husband, who raised the alarm, got to his destination without any harm? Would the man agree that he killed his wife?
It would be a matter of debate if the man’s panic message was necessary. Some would say it was to prepare the mind of the woman. Others would say it was to take away the surprise if the plane were to crash. For what, if I may ask? What would this have changed? If the plane were to crash and the man died, of course, the woman would take care of the children. She has no choice. Such a woman does not need any message from a “dying man” to do this. And if the plane does not crash and the woman dies of panic and anxiety, the man would carry the guilt all his life.
I have also been shocked by what people do with social media. On social media, there is plenty fake news, gossip and wild rumours. And there is the propensity to show off, tarnish other people’s image and mischief. Not long ago, a video of two ladies caught shoplifting was trending on social media. The ladies were stripped, with their breasts exposed. Those who caught them thought the best thing to do was to strip them, record their confession and upload to the Net. The two ladies in the video clip, with breasts exposed and tears flowing, were interrogated and mocked by their “captors.” With the video going viral, the ladies were “paraded” by people who were not law enforcement agents, tried and condemned. There is no greater condemnation than their being unveiled on the Internet as thieves and shoplifters with bare breats. Nobody should get me wrong. I am not supporting stealing. However, the question remains: Is videoing the ladies naked and uploading to the Net the proper thing to do? That is simply abuse of social media.
The frenzy of social media is actually nauseating. You see people videoing and sending out everything they come across. At accident scenes, they are there. If a feul tanker falls and catches fire, they are there videoing and uploading. Some have died in the process of this madness. People post photographs of their accomplishments for all to see. Some who do house opening or commissioning send out the photographs. Others who go abroad, take shots of themselves on the plane and in places they visit and send out. What is this!
While the controversy about the attempt to make a law for social media continues, what is obvious is that there is so much recklessness on social media. There is need for control. And the best control really is self-control.