My room is painted pink. I am not okay with it. I am also not the type who will dress my daughter in pink. But should you attack pink on social media, I will not say any of these. I will tell you it is okay for pink to be associated with femininity and it is not okay to attack it. My point? Social media is not real life or all of it.

One of the downsides of being part of the social media generation is that our observers tend to believe they know us from what we share and how we react on social media. Please note that "our observers" include ourselves. Despite the many times some of us have tried to point out that social media is barely a small percentage of our lives, this perception remains unchanged. This is not surprising. Very few of us pay attention to the posts we see on social media beyond clicking the like button, having a good laugh and moving on to the next post. It's a scroll world. Very few people read social media posts deeply and think about them while in the shower or when lying on their beds.

If your social media posts have given you a positive view, that is good. But if they have given you a negative experience, it is frustrating and damaging. No one likes to be known as a terrible person. Even if some parts of us are terrible, we tend to hide them well to not deny ourselves opportunities and favours. There are many privileges that come with being seen as a nice person. This is why reputation is everything. If any of my professors or past bosses were to say I am no good to work with, I will be doomed. My career will be over, and every privilege that I have enjoyed as a result of being part of a community that respects and appreciates my expertise will be gone.

One major problem with social media is that it is a make-believe world. Too many of us do not realize that the image a person has on social media comes from a not-always-the-truth place. I mean have you ever seen what I look like when my hair is not done and I have acne all over my face? On social media, a person who prefers not to say things as they are will be seen as polite. An unintelligent person who employs an intelligent person to guide their utterances will sound intelligent. An ugly man who edits his pictures will look handsome. A woman who can barely afford three square meals will go to unimaginable lengths to do a birthday shoot in front of the most beautiful house or social centre in her community to look rich on social media. No one ever says they are "a driver" or "a tailor" on their profiles. The nearest in truth to a tailor is "designer". The fuel station attendant says he is into oil and gas. I can go on and on and on. My point is it is a space of make-believe. What I show you is what you see. What I hide, you do not know.

The other major side of social media is how reactions are done. When I see posts from someone I personally know, I know how to react. If I know that they have had enough encounters with me to understand what I am saying, I am not afraid to comment on their posts. I know a joke will be seen as a joke, and in case it isn't, that person will afford me the courtesy of reaching out privately to register their displeasure or ask for clarification. Being given the benefit of the doubt comes with real-life friendships and relationships (most of the time).

The problem with reactions is that if those reacting do not like the person who made the post, they treat both the post and the person who made it disdainfully. And to make things worse, a neutral observer will see these reactions and conclude that the post truly doesn't deserve support or the person who did the post is a horrible person. Many of us form our opinions on social media interactions. So we join others to troll people we don't know. We forget that the person at the receiving end of our terrible words are human and may be right. Unlike in real life where those observing you are a controlled set - people in your life or connected to you in one way or the other - social media isn't like that. On social media, ghosts become the leaders of attack and one enemy could have ten hands. Your real-life acquaintances can watch another acquaintance's behaviour and understand exactly what is happening. For example, it is easy for them to remember how you didn't support the person attacking you when her husband died, and so she is also not supporting you. They understand why the other person is so angry and attacking you. This luxury does not exist on social media. People join fights they know nothing about.

As a social media user, an important thing to keep in mind is that it is quite gullible to believe what others say about someone behind their back. I know pastors who lack any form of moral compass yet are heavily praised on these streets because they manage their public image well. I have seen lecturers who used to harass us sexually while we studied under them respected enough to be entertained on national platforms. I know women who are the most self-controlled people I know yet called prostitutes on these streets. I know people who treat those who work under them badly yet are described as very nice people. It is all about what they sold to the observers and how the observers bought it. If you can afford the baddest image consultant or be careful enough not to show your "true colours", you can be accepted anywhere. After all, you hold no opinion about any issue or person; you are as blank as a calico (the opposite is true). If you can live your life according to "what would people say", you will be fine.

Back to where we started, a friend who knew me from my secondary school days will observe my defence of pink on social media. She will add her voice by informing our many observers that in secondary school, I loved pink so much that everything I brought to the boarding house was pink. She will swear she knows me very well and that I am exactly what I represented in my statements when I was defending pink. What she does not know - what our observers will forget to consider before they believe - is that secondary school was 17 years ago, and I was a teenager. But what I want you - the person reading this - to consider is that a lot happened in 17 years, and who I was as a teenager may not be who I am as a woman in her 30s. And that my classmate who swore she knew me actually knows nothing about me. The only access she has to me after secondary school is my social media profile. And what I share is what I choose to share. This is why she had no idea that I don't like that my room is painted pink and I will not dress my daughter in pink.

PS: I love pink.


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