Opinion: Death by social media – Matters arising

by Funmi Fadipe

The recent death of Cynthia Osokogu via the activities of suspected criminals on social media has brought to fore the good, the bad and the ugly sides of such networking sites. The social media commonly used in Nigeria include Facebook, 2go, Yahoo! Messenger, BBM, Netlog, Badoo, Eskimo, Twitter and Nimbuzz. They all offer their users unrestricted access to chat with friends, relations and other acquaintances. Starting from Orkut to Twitter and Facebook, social networking websites have become the vogue across the world, especially among youths. Just a few clicks and you can chat with your friends and family, sitting at a different corner of the globe. Facebook is the most popular social network in the world. It is also one of the two most frequented websites in the entire internet. It routinely trades places with Google as the most visited web service, and by the company’s estimates, it now has over 800 million active users. That’s more regular visitors than the entire internet had in 2004. As of June 2012, Facebook had over 955 million active users, more than half of them using it on mobile devices.

Interestingly, many intercontinental marriages have reportedly been contracted via social networking sites. Though it is not yet clear how successful such marriages have been, they wouldn’t have been possible but for social media. Similarly, many people have got dream jobs through social media. Aside from this, social media provide an unlimited platform for genuine business transactions, as they offer business partners the opportunity to promote their goods and services to a global market. Indeed, social media has made our world an interesting and exciting one.

However, like every innovation, social media have become a source of unending trouble and frustration in an increasingly troubled world primarily due to ‘bastardisation.’ One aspect that makes it rather unsafe is its apparent lack of security. People have to sign up with these sites by providing their personal and/or professional information. As long as these details are safe, there is no threat on social networking with friends and strangers. But once your personal details like address, contact number, etc get hacked by unwanted strangers, you will be a soft target of these miscreants.

Aside from this, it is really difficult to discern the real intention of the ‘friends’ we make on social networking sites as some of them might be criminals with hidden agenda. In most cases, they easily deceive their victims with their fake identity. This, with regard to media reports on Cynthia’s death, was indeed the case. While her killers pretended to be genuine guys with a purely business motive, poor Cynthia innocently fell for the trick of these monsters who murdered her in a heartless fashion. Cynthia is not the first victim, there are others who have been deceived, raped, defrauded, and in some cases killed.

Sadly, there is no security measure that checks such behaviour. Some girls are raped while video recordings of same are transmitted, just to stigmatise their victims.

There is a great danger in getting close with strange people on social networking sites. Many people unconsciously get started with strangers, with the intention of having a casual relationship. But gradually they find out that they become so close to these people. As time goes on, they become so intimate, forgetting that appearances can be deceptive. In due course, they trust these strangers so much that they reveal their deepest secrets to them while the so-called ‘friends’ turn back to pay them with evil.

Recently, Senate President, David Mark, expressed the belief that there must be a measure to check the negative tendencies of the social media in the country. He based his argument on the availability of so many news sites where people access all manner of information. According to Mark, journalists process news before disseminating in addition to operating a feedback mechanism which gives room for rebuttal when practitioners err. But on social media, a faceless character can post information that is absolutely false and misleading but will never retract it. At the end of the day, the ‘victims’ are faced with the task of responding to issues that never existed. Unfortunately, Mark did not state that apart from being a source of unprocessed information, social media have also become a source of untimely death.

The unfortunate death of Cynthia Osokogu has demonstrated to users of social networking sites of the need to be cautious when it comes to dealing with ‘friends’ they make on the sites. There is no point getting involved with people whose integrity you cannot really vouch for. Also, it is important for younger ones to inform their parents or guardians whenever they want to embark on any ‘deal’ with strange people. It is unfortunate that Cynthia reportedly came from Abuja to Lagos without informing anyone about her mission. Since we live in a technology driven world, parents should encourage their children to inform them if they are victims of cyber bullying or harassment. Many youngsters will try to deal with this on their own, which can have disastrous consequences.

Perhaps, more importantly, parents should ensure that their children are not given too much freedom when it comes to socialising. Many parents are of the view that the only way to express love to their children is to spoil them with material things in addition to giving them unhindered access to the kind of life they are not mature to handle. Parents need to let their children know that.

Finally, one must commend the police for the breakthrough they have thus far recoded concerning Cynthia’s murder. If only they had been acting in such a scientific and swift manner, perhaps, the killers of the late Chief Bola Ige, Chief Funsho Williams, Otunba Dipo Dina, among others, would have been caught.


*Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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