The fallacy of keyboard warriors, by Abdullahi Aliyu Maiwada
According to a popular African proverb, “when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers”. Meaning that the weak get hurt in conflicts between the powerful. In this case, it is a fight between an ‘elephant’ and the conglomeration of grasses that seems to have the power of an elephant, thanks to digital media. The social media space is indeed a double-edged sword that can be used for good or bad. If not properly managed, it can be a tool for destruction.
Recently, the social media space has been inundated with the protagonist and antagonist of the First Lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and undergraduate student of Federal University Dutse who doubles as a keyboard warrior intoxicated by youthful exuberance.
This altercation calls for more counseling of our younger ones on the need to be circumspect in their usage of social media. It is a weapon that should be handled with care to avoid self-inflicting injury. A well-trained child should know how to address his elders by being civil in his approach to issues. Deployment of wisdom is the best way to coexist in peace and harmony with people across strata. We should avoid falling prey to freedom of expression that cannot guarantee freedom after expression.
Constructive criticism and intellectually marshaled points about issues are better than an attack on personality or body shaming. A well-trained child should ordinarily accord respect to his/her age mates and more importantly people who are old enough to be his/her parent.
Some of our younger generations mostly Millennials and Generation ‘Z’ that are digital natives have developed a habit of using vulgar language on reputable personalities in our societies on social media space just because of simple differences in opinion or certain complex social issues that most of them are intellectually weak to understand. These folks believe that the availability of digital media is an automatic avenue to pour insult on elders, scholars, teachers, traditional leaders, political figures, and other reputable personalities.
This is the right time to maximally utilize the law of defamation on recalcitrant elements that think and believe in defaming people’s character to gain cheap social media attention.
On the other hand, leaders should learn to be tolerant and strategic in their response to such precarious situations. Some of our actions or inaction if not carefully executed can cause more harm than good in the public space. One of the tenets of leadership is perseverance. When we take the bold decision to lead, we should learn to accept and control situations that are seemingly in contrast with our emotions.
My little experience in Public Relations has over the years thought me that you win people’s hearts with humility. You create a positive perception and manage complex situations if you understand and apply the science and art of strategic communication.
Abdullahi A. Maiwada is a superintendent of Customs attached to the Public Relations Unit, Nigeria Customs Service Headquarters, Abuja.