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“Please hide my ID”: Social Media a one-stop solution shop

Social media remains a dominant influence on knowledge production and dissemination since the advent of digital communication. Between initiators to receivers of information, a huge…

Social media remains a dominant influence on knowledge production and dissemination since the advent of digital communication. Between initiators to receivers of information, a huge body of discourse is being generated and circulated through social media much faster than in the good old days of the analog.

Books, classrooms, television and radio, among others, are no longer the only reliable sources of knowledge and information. Google, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok are making access to information much faster and easier. For example, a Google search on disease diagnosis, prescription, and cure saves one a visit to the doctor! Although this is a risky practice and frown upon by medical professionals, people still indulge in it. Nowadays, a mechanic, teacher, chef, counselor, cleric, and virtually every other professional we need is within our reach with a simple scroll of the smartphone. 

However, like every other phenomenon, knowledge accessibility ushered by digital technology has its disadvantages. For the most part, the internet is a free zone for exchanging ideas; practically anybody with a smartphone or computer, and some internet connectivity, can initiate communication, generate and disseminate knowledge. And there lies the danger!    

In recent times I have developed an interest in social media communication dynamics through a research methodology called Netnography. This is a research methodology used to study online communities and cultures. It involves collecting and analysing data from online forums, social media, and blogs, to gain insights into individuals’ behaviors, attitudes and interactions within those communities. 

I belong to the Facebook and Instagram communities of some popular websites with a large following by especially women from Northern Nigeria. Some of these include Pearls of the North, Northern Hibiscus, arewawomen_room, northern_marriages, and voice_ of_ Bazawara, among others. Here, individual experiences are shared and discussed. Questions are asked, and pieces of advice are sought and given on issues ranging from health, occupation, faith, relationships, parenting, and many others. Sometimes these platforms are used to advertise products and services, relationship match-making, jobs, financial assistance and crowd-funding.

 Topics are presented for discussions either by the platforms’ administrators or followers. The topics could be as mundane as dishwashing, they could also be as profound as the effect of modernisation on women’s traditional status and roles as mothers and wives; the cultural expectations placed upon them, viz a viz, the changes in these roles as a result of the realities of the times. Nowadays more women are pursuing careers and providing for their families. More women are going out of the domestic into the public sphere, as such these women often have questions to ask about how to juggle career and family, how to manage their time, what duties to prioritise, and how, generally, to conduct themselves and have the best of the two spheres. Social media is therefore a safe space where women can discuss their concerns without inhibitions. Indeed, the anonymity provided by online communication is bolstering the exchange of views that are gradually challenging and redefining gendered roles and spaces in our society.

A very unique aspect of social media engagement is the amorphous nature of the cyberspace. The internet accommodates every content, unless where censorship measures are installed, and the user demographics are also general. As a result, there is a high rate of appropriation going on; and everyone can become an expert on anything. People who are not trained clerics are dishing out religious injunctions. People without medical training are handing out prescriptions. There are a whole lot of people without any financial training giving financial advice and business recommendations, and a plethora of marriage and parenting guides are issued by people without the expertise.

The tons of information that is churned out on social media platforms are often accepted and used wholesale by people who lack the intellectual capacity to filter and process them. I recall the incident of a lady who posted a video lamenting how she lost money and clientele because she followed the recipe of an online chef. This chef had proffered an “easier method” to making Awara by adding baking powder to the soya beans paste instead of the traditional tedious method of kneading the dough.  The lady, who runs a cooking training programme, adopted the method in class without testing it.  Unfortunately, the baking powder did not yield the desired result and she lost her investment and clients. 

Another incident that almost caused the loss of marriage occurred following a topic that trended regarding whether a wife should wash her husband’s clothes or not. Some argued that a wife is not a slave, as such it is demeaning to wash the husband’s clothes.  Others countered that it is an act of love to do so. Some argued that it is a woman’s responsibility, while others felt it is a choice. Now, a certain young woman, I was told, took the slavery/demeaning view and decided not to wash her husband’s clothes; pronouncing that she had decided to stop washing his clothes to regain her dignity. The husband, who cuts wood for a living, decided not to go out to work the following morning. As hunger pangs begin to set in at noon, the wife asked why he is still in bed when they have nothing to eat. The man simply turns on his other side and tells her that he has also bought into her idea of regaining his dignity, as such, he will not go back to doing that demeaning job he does to keep the family going! That marriage nearly collapsed but for the intervention of elders.

These examples may sound funny, but they reveal how delicate social media discourses can be. They also show the need for teachers, communication experts, and whoever has a stake in knowledge production in our society to take an interest in social media engagements. It also behooves the administrators of these platforms to recognise the relevance of their role in shaping society. While the right to practice their trade is acknowledged, there is a moral obligation on their part, to be circumspective while initiating conversations, to filter unsubstantiated information and also guide their discourses with views from certified experts. This way their followers can positively benefit from belonging to their communities.


Dr Ango is a lecturer at the University of Abuja [email protected]


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