Observations and analysis also revealed that, social media is slowly taking over traditional media’s role as media platforms that inform and notify the public in a timely manner about any issue in the country. It has become clear that we have different categories of people on social media: self-proclaimed experts and defenders, such as digital political evangelists, political hallucinators, affective and displaced lovers, social entertainers and the I do not care type of people, the lost and found digitisers. Therefore, it is very important for you to categorise your friends based on their social closeness and digital behaviour on social media.
Many a time, digital political evangelists and political hallucinators tend to dominate these platforms as they are seeking support, comfort, votes, and sympathisers for their ill-gotten behaviours.
Although, social media was initially seen as a platform that citizens in any economy could use for leisure and socialisation, lately, these platforms have became avenues for political infighting and struggles, vilification, blackmailing and character assassination.
This can be better understood in the latest incidents whereby, citizens’ insults, discredit, shame and vigilantise others. Incidents such as the Aandonga issue, sex video circulation, photos and SMSs sharing, political shaming and circulation of private and confidential documents.
Other exapmples include information, sharing of learners’ papers or recorded videos by teachers for learners that are not fluent in the official language or not well taken care of, sharing unofficial confirmed accident pictures and videos.
These incidents do not only destroy the characters of those mentioned in those videos or messages. but also show the level of education, maturity and literacy of the one who shares and posts the messages on these platforms.
All this leads to social disorder and social disharmony. Equally, these actions by some citizens can lead to provocations and marriage break-downs.
There is a misunderstanding of these platforms as many youth look at them as unregulated platforms where they can say or write anything they feel like writing. As a social media researcher, I have to caution that, posting insulting, vilifying and character assassinating messages on digital platforms raises ethical concerns and also moral obligations as a digital citizen in that country or village or constituency.
We also end up sending the wrong message to our fellow citizens that are not yet on social media platforms as they only look at them as avenues for gossip, sex scandals, vigilantism and others.
However, there are laws and regulations that control this, ranging from the constitution, and other parliamentary laws. As a dutiful citizen, you need to familiarise yourself with these country and international laws to avoid committing serious digital offences.
One of the ethical dilemma that we have is the leakage of very confidential conversations and documents from very private and public offices. Our citizens tend to ignore our traditions, culture, values and norms that shape our well-being and existence on earth.
Many of the young people are using these platforms as money making schemes where they blackmail others and threaten to expose them if they do not give them certain amounts. This defeats the purpose of these platforms.
My advice to those that fall victim to these type of digital crimes and offences is to report these issues to the nearest police station or CRAN. Being attacked, insulted or discussed on social media has some of the following effects: it discourages and labels people and leads to moral decay. Spiritual questioning and tradition and may lead to suicides or contribute to gender-based violence, which is growing at an alarmingly high rate now in Namibia.
Below I am offering the do’s and don’t’s of social media from my personal experience as a regular social media user and researcher:
The do’s of social media
Share social constructive news, information or ideas.
Share scholarships, vacancies, educational videos, any other pertinent information.
Ask the online community to assist you with explanations on assignments or projects that you are working on.
Share and post pictures that are relevant and deemed fit to be on the public platform.
Share successes (but be extra careful that not everybody is happy about your success).
Protect your pictures, statuses, and any other documents on your social media page.
Accept friend requests from people that you have a lot of mutual friends with.
Block those that irritate or remove yourself from some groups on social media.
Always update your location when you are no longer in that location or town.
Have a purpose driven aim of posting messages or sharing ideas on social media.
Aim at digitally educating others and advise and warn others when they are abusing or misbehaving on social media.
Stand by what you believe in when posting or commenting.
Be sensitive and put yourself in the shoes of others.
The don’ts of social media
Do not share private issues such as having problems with your partner or family or boss/supervisor at work on social media.
Do not share sensitive and pornographic videos BUT rather report them to Facebook or any other authority as sharing them means you are promoting the act.
Do not accept friend requests from unknown people that you do not have mutual friends with (though you have mutual friends, check which ones and how close you are).
Do not forget where you come from, your culture, profession, industry, norms and values.
Always log out.
Do not use your work PC or time for your own private social networking activities.
Do not share your password.
Consequently, our behaviour and attitude on Social Media makes many people to hate us and deactivate their accounts from social media. Be as friendly as possible; be an observer, read and understand posts and statuses before commenting and liking; use emotions correctly and appropriately to avoid offending others and be sensitive.
I am suggesting that, we need to have a national education program focusing on Social Media Ethics and Practices country-wide urgently.
Our people, be it the educated or less educated are now becoming a public shame by displaying and showing their digital illiteracy skills and knowledge on social media platforms. Many of them became laughing stocks in their communities while they thought they were becoming public figures and increasing their popularity.
Additionally, we need to establish a state funded Institute of Digital Literacy to promote digital literacy and social media literacy among our citizens. So, while social media rises our opportunities to interact digitally increase it is equally leading to a fall in social and cultural morals.
Above all, take note that today it is you that exposes and insults others on social media, and the following day it will be you or your relative who will be crucified. Let’s build a responsible, digitally inclusive house.
Sadrag Panduleni Shihomeka, is a Citizen engagement, Social media and Politics Researcher at the School of History, Culture and Communication, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands. He is also a Lecturer for Educational Technologies and Research at the University of Namibia, Department of Lifelong Learning and Community Education. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org