I started using Facebook in 2013. I was in SS1 and I was 15. I had no idea what Facebook was all about. I didn’t even know what was called media etiquette. It was my naivety that took the better part of me, so I opened the account mainly for fun—forging new acquaintances and chatting with people I might not even get to meet in real life. But to me, everything was real. The happenings on Facebook mattered a lot to me. So, oftentimes, I spent my entire day going through the news feed and reading jokes from groups with my small Nokia phone. It wasn’t an era of WhatsApp. And even few years after WhatsApp came out, I still didn’t have access to a phone that supported one. As a result of this, Facebook, to me, was then a platform to show the world what I have got, where I have been to, and how much I have achieved. I saw birthday posts of friends on my list; youth corps members, that they were finally serving their father’s land; a two days old baby as a glory to ‘friends’ that it just came to the world, birthdays pictures and selfies, matriculation and university graduations pictures, purchase of new cars by some friends on my list and its attendant excitement, etc.
Everyday, I was being inundated with testaments of achievements and pictures of the friends I had on my list. At that moment, it seemed to me that that was what Facebook was all about. So, I updated my pictures on Facebook, copied and pasted quite a number of jokes on my timeline, engaged in unproductively random chats with some ‘friends’ and later left frustrated. When people liked, commented or reacted to any of those posts, I felt proud; I felt great because to me I thought I was making waves on social media. People were beginning to know me, I thought. I’d update my status at least eight or nine times in a day. Or sometimes as many times as my battery could permit. That common phrase on Facebook ‘Francis, what’s on your mind?’ assumed a perfect shape on my mind. It didn’t occur to me that I was constituting a nuisance on Facebook, on social media.
On May 4, 2018, I had my matriculation ceremony in University of Ibadan as one of the freshmen. I was so elated. My joy knew no bounds. Immediately after the matriculation ceremony, I hurriedly rushed to Facebook to broach the news to friends and foes, kith and kin. In my mind, they must know that I just gained admission to the first and the best institution in Nigeria. I was counting my likes and seeing those who reacted to my post. I had achieved. Many people congratulated me and I felt extremely proud of myself for the feat attained. I knew that I muddled through some sort of hell before I could get that enviable admission and there I was, with people pouring rains of congratulations of me. That singular experience taught me a life lesson: Nobody care about your success until you win, so win. However, after my admission, I settled down for serious academic reading. I didn’t have time for Facebook, or even any social media. I was busy studying, doing assignments, making plans and setting priorities. Then after our first semester break, it dawned on me that I had actually stayed so far away from Facebook, where friends and foes did not know where I was or what I was up to. It also dawned on me that I had shut people’s prying eyes from my life the moment I stopped posting every detail of my life and achievements on Facebook. I became clear to me that I was doing a lot more, building and improving myself academically and professionally. So, I became more conscious about that aspects of my life that I shared online.
Then, some questions began to nudge my imagination:What is even the point telling the world that ‘little’ success that has not been fully consummated? That ‘Congratulations to me. POP done and dusted!’ with little or no impacts where you served as a member of the Nysc?
Or why tell the whole world you just completed your OND, HND, BSC, MSC, when you do not even know what awaits you after your graduation?What if I had not shared my matriculation success with my ‘friends’ on Facebook, would all still go well? Or would it gainsay the fact that I gained admission? Perhaps the most embarrassing of it all is telling the world—Facebook, a vast world of interconnected people—you are embarking on a journey. I had once seen a friend who took a picture in a bus and asked his supposed friends on Facebook to wish him safe journey to his destination. That act irritated me greatly. I wondered why he did not want some appreciable amount of privacy to himself. My first thought was to chat him up and to tell him to delete the post, but I decided against it. Maybe someday, just like me, he’d see what was wrong with his action; he’d see the need for privacy. While celebrating one’s feats on social media is good and sometimes encouraging on their own, yet one must not be in a hurry to share every detail of one’s life achievement with other people. In my village, they would say,
It took me a considerably long time before I found an effective balance to cope with media portrayal of myfeats as a young man. I realized that once a man gets addicted to sharing all matters of his life on Facebook and he receives gratifications on such accounts, it takes genuine frontage to break away from the addiction.It may even cost him a genuine lack for improvements especially if he relies on the praises and glamor of other people. A wise man once said that maturity comes when you stop publishing every detail of your life on social media. Why are we too quick to share our successes and not our failures? In one of Dr. Yinka Egbokhare’s Marketing classes, she admonished us to think of ourselves as brands. She said perhaps if we did, we would know how to project ourselves to the world; we would know what to say, how to say it, what to wear, when to talk and when to just observe and keep mute. I made a resolution that very day.Other people would never know where I was or what I was up to until I achieved that which I set out for. Even when I achieved it, I would only tell them what I want them to know, not what they wanted to know.People would lose track of my life after I stop sharing details of it with them on Facebook. And that is the plain truth, though it may be hard to believe. It later dawned on me that my academic, spiritual, business, health, relationships,sex, finance lives are sacrosanct to me and I must guide themreligiously as such. It is just like wearing a white apparel and making sure no one pours a pint of red oil on it. In no way would I sell the whole part of me out to the world! I resolved to update status only when it creates much value for people around me. I said to myself: I’d celebrate my birthday that is truly worth celebrating on Facebook, but not only on social media space. I resolved to keep my bank balance away from Facebook or any social media until I accumulate enough for people to see themselves. Even the simple act of charity that I did would not be shown to the whole world. Even the life pains that I bear will not get to the ears of others until I am far better off. That award I just received would not be known to every Tom, Dick and Harry.
Today, you should go out and do the same. I have a brother, Professor Odunayo Ikuerowo, he had reached that age where, in spite of the successes he has garnered over the years and his philanthropic activities, he stopped sharing them many years ago. It took me a while to even realize that he had become a professor. What a humility! Then I told myself, I’d do the same. Maybe you should ask yourself, what if there were no Facebook or WhatsApp or Instagram, how would your life have been if you did not share your successes with friends and foes every now and then. In this age we are now, the truth is when it comes to successes like recent completion or purchase of a new house, admissions successes, graduations, new car, arrival of a new baby, NYSC orientation camping and its eventual POP, birthdays, awards or gifts from friends, posting an-escape-from-accident pictures or pre-travelling shotsetc., man’s natural inclination in this age is to share the successes on Facebook, with the belief that others would celebrate them with him.
Today as I finish this article, I told myself that I’d never share my testimony until it is complete; never to share my successes until they have been fully consummated. It is my hope that you would genuinely search your hearts and do the same. In the long run, ask yourself if it really matters if others get to know about your private affairs. Would it make your life any less meaningful if they don’t? I doubt if it would.
- Ikuerowo is a student of the University of Ibadan