Social media has increased significantly in Ghana. There's no doubt that it has touched the lives of the present generation of our beloved country and the world as a whole but this does not mean that we should show disrespect on social media platforms when there are more pressing matters to be attended to.
Whilst these online avenues present good news for Ghanaians by causing a lot of people to communicate effectively with families, loved ones and friends, building solid brands for their businesses, retrieving news items, some entertaining accordingly & serving as useful sources of information or knowledge, it leaves no taste on the buds of the recalcitrants.
Almost all the social media platforms I cruise to are so much filled with uncourteous posts, videos, and comments about people while we're battling on how to contain the spread of Covid-19 and assuage our sufferings. Well, online opinions that run counter to our core attitudes can trigger emotional outbursts affecting one's self and the country in the long run.
Although we live in this online environment, our safety, peace and security should be a primary concern. I would rather much we curtail our misbehavior on social media to match our national characteristics(discipline) and not dream about the export of wisdom & courtesy for responsible citizen development.
This is a very roundabout way to lead me to what has been agitating my mind towards the display of disrespect on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram by some people. Often users of these platforms do not put premium on their choice of words.
Whilst the youth become increasingly susceptible to this unacceptable behavior and development, it's irredeemably denting our image as a country in the eyes of the international community. Why not eschew attacks, abusive language & hasty generalizations against one another on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp just to mention but a few?
Interestingly, the issue becomes prevalent during election periods. It is in such times that politicians in Ghana use social media as a tool to reach younger voters and build their political parties. For example, Party 'A' in attempt to win political favor will post discourteous & insulting comments against Party 'B'. This marks the beginning of the "give and take" fights online. No wonder, we're an attraction of opprobrium.
In the same vein, despite social media serving as a tool to reach constituents, sufficient evidence abounds that it is still very new for many Ghanaians and did not actually increase support. Hence, I can project that poverty and illiteracy are still a problem in Ghana that even social media cannot solve. In addition, many of the recipients feel that these communications were an invasion of privacy and responded negatively to political solicitation. They have made their mouths ever ready to "diss" these politicians especially those with divergent political affiliations.
This negative use of social media has no resonance with me. For God's sake, we still have the problems of poor sanitation, deplorable road networks, adequate health care, corruption and above all Coronavirus. Why waste our precious time in showing disrespect through our various social media handles. Do not think for once that the bad behavior you exhibit on there is the 'trend'. No, you are very much mistaken. It has far reaching repercussions on your persona, your family and our homeland.
Again, some Ghanaians come out with disrespectful comments(seen in written or video posts) when persons of high repute comit blunders or suffer shortcomings in any discourse. They capitalize on their downfall and disrespect them. There are some people who are so much consumed by the use of disrespectful language on social media rather than using those platforms to preach or advise the youth to stay away from immoral activities or to propagate the goodwill of this country. This alone disqualifies us from being responsible users of the new media.
When, someone spews churlish words or attacks you on social media, it feels like the community has already made its mind about you (you become a public ridicule) until you prove your innocence. And users have their own ways of handling their own problems or meddling in the problems of others.
We are all in this environment of instantaneous outbursts of micro-messages, any damage is done the instant something is tweeted or posted online. Funnily, but seriously enough what's posted online can also be reposted and continues to live long. People can incorrectly take a comment you make out of context (which in some states could potentially be ground for a false light claim). They can share hurtful opinions and the form of harm can be much more complicated.
I believe that, it's easy to encounter a rude person and react to the racing heartbeat and flushed face they've caused you but social media shouldn't be used. In such instances, it'll be a clear showcase of respect & maturity if you keep your side of the street clean, re-evaluate and choose how to react if you want to.
Looking at our social media platforms, some Ghanaians find it fashionable to text or comment rudely. I may not be an expert social media user but I also think that guidance and circumspection in our posts should be held in high esteem. Many users do not forsee how their posts could be perceived by people within or outside their intended audience.
Do we want to experience unwanted consequences? It is high time Ghanaians saw the difference between copying blindly, stop spreading derogatory remarks and imitating in order to shape our well-being.
Let us not wait to accept our mistakes in the name of tweeting, captioning, texting, craving attention and above all entertainment. Anyone is a publisher to unlimited, worldwide audiences without nearly as many filters, hence we should exercise decorum and circumspection on these online platforms. We should rather be wailing the loss of our culture and heritage, because of foreign influence, rather than spewing insults on people whenever and wherever we find ourselves on the internet.
We should understand the potency of the platforms we enjoy and the information we put out there.We just need to take the next crucial step and accept that we don’t need to disrespect people on social media. Let's just admit that we need attitudinal readjustment on how we go about our online life. We shouldn't do anything tantamount to the invasion of our privacy and an affront on our fundamental human rights as citizens.
The author, Bright Philip Donkor is the CSA'20 Online Journalist of the Year; Communication Practitioner, Social Activist, Columnist and a Prolific Feature Writer.