If you have been following the raging online arguments on whether the local Uganda DJs are doing enough to promote local music, you may have noticed how the debate almost never took off when Bebe Cool responded to Fat Boy’s views by assuring the fella to stop growing fat and grow up.
There could never have been a better example to illustrate how quickly a simple constructive debate can degenerate into blatant insults and verbal abuse when deliberations are online. Luckily for us, cooler heads kept things on point.
Abusive online outbursts like Bebe Cool’s, have forced lawmakers in the UK to start thinking up laws that could see people being jailed for up to two years for being abusive to others over the internet. Letting one’s mouth loose in online fora like Twitter, Facebook and even via phone texts, could get you locked up.
Stories have come to light where people are being hounded with continuous vile abusive language and ridicule, many times for their stand on certain issues, their religion, looks, and race or in some cases just for the fun of it. The most vulnerable and easy targets seem to be celebrities and teenagers, in some cases such abuses and bullying has led to death.
In the last year alone, up to nine UK teenage suicides were linked to one online social network known as Ask.fm. The victims were kids who could not take the mostly-anonymous online harassment and abuse they were receiving on a daily basis.
It wouldn’t be far-fetched to assume the bullies are their peers and online mates they picked along over the internet. I would compare this with the dreadful senior one initiation and bullying that went on in most of Uganda’s traditional secondary schools in the early 90s, but this being the internet, the scope and scale is much larger and almost unlimited.
I think what worries the government here most is the swiftness with which seemingly normal people turn into heartless monsters online. The bazungu are generally a very mindful and courteous lot in real life, (apart from the football-loving, yob types of course).
Altercations, though common, rarely lead to any insults or serious scuffles.These guys seem to derive more pleasure from debating each other to boredom than settling matters faster, faster with a roll of the sleeves and the testing of strength like we favour. But then let the same mzungu lose on Twitter and the profanities that will come out of his mouth will surprise you.
Equally surprising is the way the hitherto fiery African turns into a rational thinker and debater when they go on the internet. They are much better listeners and most of them come across as well-learned and informed. The exception to the rule here, are of course the few uncool heads dotted in our midst.
Now if this was a perfect world we lived in, the UK government would have paired up nicely with the African online audience while the feistiness of the online mzungu would have found its equal in the no-nonsense tear-gas approach of our African governments.
It’s sad that things don’t always fit that nicely together, and yet with each passing day, the lines between the online and the real world becomes more blurred.
Welcome to a bigger world!
Source : The Observer