Many Ghanaians who frequently visit the Ghanaweb's "Say It Loud" ("SIL") and other similar platforms of other Ghanaian web-based news providers, would agree with me that some of the comments found there are not worthy of reading. The purpose of this article is to highlight:
• some advantages associated with the appropriate use of SIL forum; and
• the dangers of inappropriate use of such platforms.
To start with, one cannot deny the fact that if the SIL forum is used appropriately, it serves a very useful purpose. For instance, various people are able to offer different views about issues published on Ghanaweb, which the original writer might not have discussed. Some of these views tend to be very constructive criticisms, while others are further points strengthening the arguments in the original article.
Unfortunately however, some people use their comments in SIL not only to insult the writers but other prominent people as well. For instance, it is very common to notice people attacking some prominent people like President Kufour, former President Rawlings, Asantehene and even the Pope. The problem is that once such prominent people are attacked, their entire tribes are also not spared the rod. It is also common to notice people bashing the Northerners, the Gas, the Fantes and to some extend some other tribes in Ghana. However, in most cases one would notice that the issues being discussed were neither tribal nor related to any prominent figure in Ghana; as all that is required is for one of the commentators in the SIL to hijack the discussion and attack any of the high profile or their tribes, and what you continue to read becomes very disturbing. As I mentioned before, some even attack the Pope while Christianity or religion is not being discussed at all.
It is imperative for all of to understand that we will be causing a great harm to our dear country if we provide such unhealthy comments in the SIL platform. I believe strongly that some people use SIL platform to entertain and in this regard, they may consider whatever they state (there) as a joke. However, we must not forget that even within friends, different people take jokes differently. Although, some readers may consider SIL platform as an informal forum and therefore, would not attach much significance to comments made there. However, other readers may react negatively to unhealthy comments made there. In that regard, such unnecessary tribal and other unhealthy comments may to considerably extent, cause some people to have wrong perception about other tribes and so forth.
It is therefore important for us to recognise that when we are using the SIL platform we do not use abusive languages and make unnecessary references to tribalism and other sensitive issues (especially, in a negative way).
Definitely, we may have different opinions about certain issues but we should be polite when we are commenting on them. We should try to avoid insulting when we disagree, rather, we should endeavour to offer constructive criticisms in a polite manner. If we put our points across in a polite manner it is most likely to have positive impact, especially, if the points are strong. On the other hand, if we attack people we disagree with, our message is not going to make any impact at all. If any thing at all, it is only those who already share the same views with us who would bother to read such comments.
Whether we regard comments on SIL as official or not, we must recognise that it is highly possible that people of other nationalities do read them. For instance, a foreigner who potentially wants to invest in Ghana may read such comments when he is doing a research about the country, and he may be turned away by such unhealthy comments. Thus, such comments may tarnish our image as a nation.
It is therefore, significant to understand that as human beings, we are bound to have different opinions in whatever relationship or society we find ourselves in, particularly, given our different cultures and languages, but we must endeavour to find a compromising stand in a peaceful and respectful way as in some cases, we turn to attach too much importance to issues that are not necessary.
The Bible (and presumably, Koran) states that the tongue is a fire and it can set ablaze a very large field. Thus, we must carefully watch what we state, particularly, when such statements are written, as the Chinese have a proverb that literally translates "the palest ink is stronger than the mightiest word". Another Chinese proverb also literally states, "once you say something, even the quickest horse can not take it back". I believe in our different Ghanaian culture we have similar proverbs. Therefore, we must understand that in whatever way we make our comments it will either have positive or negative impact.
In this regard, I suggest that all people using any form of SIL platform must demonstrate some form of maturity and take responsibility for their actions. More importantly, the owners and editors of such platforms must ensure that people do not use that platform to insult those they disagree with or pass unnecessary tribal and other remarks. Rather, the platforms must be used to either offer constructive criticisms, or comment positively on issues, and in that regard, our infant democracy will grow.