The young and the restless in the social media era

Tuesday March 24 2020

If you're going to misbehave please make sure that the video is in HD. We as the general public deserve your humiliation in high definition. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK


I start each day by being thankful for the little things in life I got as a way of dealing with all the hurdles that life throws my way. Today, I'm grateful that I haven't been convinced to run to raise money for causes that my taxpayer money is supposed to be taking care of. I'm also grateful that my teens didn't happen in the age of social media. To be honest, social media did exist but not at the ubiquitous level it does now.

I'm glad that I didn't live in the era where parents would start a social media page for me and post my photos daily and even put captions, trying to imagine what I would be saying if I could talk. Or in the period where a famous internet couple made a social media page for their domestic help and would post images of her while praising her bosses. I honestly think that the couple need mental, spiritual and psychological help, but don't take my word for it.

By the beginning of my teenagehood, I had a really old hand-me-down phone. It was either an Alcatel or a Siemens, I can't quite remember but what I do remember is that it had a really tiny screen and it had a total memory capacity of 16 messages. Once it reached maximum the phone would stop working until I deleted one. My ringtone was monophonic and I would wait to go back to school to ask my friends for codes to make my own ringtone. I even remember the first time I saw a friend with a phone with a camera. Nick was in my Sunday school class and everyone followed him around for a chance to touch his phone which had internet and a camera. It was revolutionary. We all dreamed of the day we would have similar phones. I'm glad we didn't get them too soon.

Instant sharing

I'm glad a phone that would record our every move was not part of our world. And neither was instant sharing. That truth came to me this past weekend when I had to mediate a disagreement between friends that was threatening to break into a brawl.

At the back of my mind, I was thinking, that I had a reputation to manage and I cannot have videos taken of me when I am in the middle of a fight. I had to do something and fast.

Our Uncles got away with it back in their youth. As they sneaked to the nearby villages to drink chang'aa, no one had a copy of their episodes.

When they were doing the naughty in the thickets and coffee bushes, no one was there to share the gory images. No one recorded when they got high on weed, so today they can liberally lecture us on the need to take their lead. They are business leaders now.

Later, as they came of age, their bar fights weren't documented by friends looking for two seconds of internet clout.

What I am trying to say is that before social media, society permitted the age of foolishness. Today, we don't have the luxury of enjoying being young and restless.

I am talking about something I have experienced personally. A few years ago I didn't care about my online persona. I didn't give a hoot about a corporate image or long-term consequences online. If someone abused me, I rolled in the mud with them. I was always the last one standing and I even got a whole column dedicated to me by Njoki Chege on the Subaru boys' saga.

I attracted drama. But today I don't have the mental space for it. I have a brand to guard. Now, I just walk away from unnecessary fights and think about all my actions because it takes one bad move and you'll be trending for all the wrong reasons.

Today, everyone is duly warned that they need to be more careful about the people around them who are recording because they'll be 40 trying to apologise for something they did in their 20s. The internet never forgets. If you're going to do foolish things make sure that you're with the right crowd which won't record it and posts it for 500 retweets. And watch your posts. Employers and all manner of people verify your info from what you share online.

As a parting shot, if you're going to misbehave please make sure that the video is in HD. We as the general public deserve your humiliation in high definition.