I am an experienced Social Media practitioner with a strong passion for connecting with customers of brands. As part of a team, I presently work on the social media account of a leading European auto company. On this job, I have brought my vast experiences in journalism, marketing, search engine optimisation and branding to play.
By Morak Babajide-Alabi
My friend, Adam was on the phone last week, to bare his mind on, according to him, some “critical issues” that are a bit worrying to him. It’s been a while I spoke with Adam and immediately I saw the caller ID I suffered a pang of guilt. I remembered that the last time we chatted, I promised him a call “very soon,” but has turned out to four months. As I picked the call, I felt the need to explain the various reasons why I had not called him as promised.
It is sometimes beyond our understanding how days turn to nights and we gloss over our friends’ numbers with thoughts to phone them as soon as possible. In most cases, we do demonstrate the sincerity to keep the promises as we have these friends, family members or colleagues at heart, but the day to day activities push them to the end. I agree that this should not be an excuse, but in the busy world that we are if care is not taken, we are most likely to defer calls until they are too late.
I must admit I find myself in this position most of the time. This is unhelped by the array of social media that we sign up to. They make us feel that our friends and family members are at our fingertips, and we can see how good they are doing. We sight them daily on social media, they look well and good. We watch their “beautiful” stories, their perfect lives and they see ours too. But we overlook the fact that social media represent a place to hide our imperfections from the world. They keep old friends and family members together, but we also know they are the wrong places to measure individuals’ emotional wellbeing.
Adam is not a fan of social media. He is one of the few who were compelled to set them up but had never really got round to actively using them to socialise. Once in a while, you may come across him on LinkedIn and Twitter, but not a guy to share his life story on either of them. He is still the “traditional phone guy,” who asks after his friends. I have abandoned Adam many times by not honouring my callback promises.
He had never complained about this, but I feel like I do let him down. On every occasion, I admonish myself that I have to do better, not only to Adam but other friends and family members. His buoyant “hello” put me at ease. The guilt trip turned to a pleasant feeling of reconnection with a valuable friend. With Adam, it does not matter the number of days, weeks, months or years we have not spoken, the conversation is picked up, just as if it was from yesterday. Adam possesses many enviable qualities that endear him to everyone. No wonder he enjoys a vast circle of friends in all strata of the society.
“I have been worried stiff about you,” Adam said. “Why?” I asked. “Do not play dumb. Do you think I don’t care about you? When I did not hear from you in recent times, I thought, maybe the flood had swept you under or you had caught the bug and had to self-quarantine.” I could imagine him, maintaining a straight face for impact. I did not pretend to be ignorant of what he was talking about. Two issues are dominating the news media all over the world, and they relate to the environment I live in – the United Kingdom and Nigeria. Adam had suggestively referred to them in his opening jab – the flood and COVID-19.
“I hope you are aware the fear of Coronavirus is the beginning of wisdom,” Adam continued. How would I not recognize this? With the rapid spread of the virus fast turning into a scourge, it is indeed wise to take extra care. “This virus is ruthless. It is spreading like the Australian wildfire, and not sparing any continent.”
Regrettably, the virus is not letting off. Italy has become the centre point for the spread of the virus in the Europe continent. Being a popular tourist destination, it is painless to grasp why. The Italian deaths on Friday rose to 21 while a total of 821 have tested positive in the country. It is still rising. This has prompted the World Health Organisation (WHO) to raise the alarm that the virus was spreading real fast outside China. The first British Coronavirus death was recorded last week when a passenger on the Diamond Princess Cruise Ship did not survive it in Japan.
The British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is concerned. He said: “I have just had a meeting with the chief medical officer and secretary of state for health, talking about the preparations that we need to make.” There is cause for concern as four new British Coronavirus cases were announced on Friday, bringing the total number to 20. Other European countries such as Germany and France have reported double-digit cases of infection, all originating from Italian travellers. As at press time, there were more than 84116 global cases and 2871 deaths.
It is instructive to note that the first case in sub-Saharan Africa is an Italian. Nigeria announced his first case on Thursday last week. Before I could process the announcement, Adam jumped me. “What do you think will happen now that this Italian is in Nigeria?” I thought about the extremity of this comment but sometimes it is a waste of time to challenge Adam’s thoughts. “The Federal Ministry of Health has assured that the Italian ‘is clinically stable, with no serious symptoms, and is being managed at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba, Lagos.’ What else needs to be done?” I asked angrily.
“Slow down, bro. It is for your safety, so you do not jump on the plane for a vacation in the sun in Nigeria, as the UK is riddled with Storm this, Storm that. What if the guy is let loose to roam the streets of Lagos or Abuja?” I don’t care what Adam feels, it is impressive that the health authorities took the right decision this time around. This is a sign that they learnt lessons from the Ebola outbreak. The assurance that they are “fishing out” all the individuals who had contact with the expatriate Coronavirus carrier is commendable. Isolating the contact is a must.
Adam was undone yet. “But why do your leaders threaten the citizens?” I sighed, and he took the cue to continue. “Did you not read the Press Release? It warned citizens not to cause any social media riots on the Coronavirus case. Should we be expecting a new law on this soon?” To be honest, government officials do go overboard in their communications with the public. There was no need to issue a veiled threat.
Nigerians should not panic about this Coronavirus nonsense. What about the simple “Japanese doctors treating COVID-19 cases” remedy, circulating on Whats App and Social Media? This non-medical advice has been circulating on Nigerian social media groups. It says to defeat Coronavirus (I quote) “Everyone should ensure your mouth and throat is moist, never DRY. take a few sips of water every 15 mins at least. WHY? Even if the virus gets into your mouth … drinking water or other liquids will wash them down through your oesophagus and into the stomach.” It goes on and on. And on and on Nigerians pass this misinformation round and round to friends and family members.
“In the present circumstances I rest my case that social media is not a good place for education on Coronavirus,” Adam said. I agree with him, especially with Nigerians.
As written for the Diaspora Matters Column, Sunday Vanguard, March 1, 2020.