India is managing a major crisis, and it’s nothing new in the realm of social apps that are meant to make our lives easier without the headache of calling cards, and the long-distance calls that can’t seamlessly handle the “distance” without numerous disconnections.
Enter the seductive efficiency of WhatsApp, that has provided the perfect symbiosis that keeps globetrotters assuredly connected to the ones they love, with the simple method of clicking numbers that unfailingly respond.
This revolutionary invention was direly missing when I was a college student in the States, who frustratingly couldn’t hear the voices of my Nigeria-based parents as often as I wanted — due to the lack of steady phone lines and the plentiful phone cards — that only made the brief connection after $10 became $4.27.
My cautioned relationship with technology forces me to be wary about introductions to the latest craze. This explains why I was the very last one in the family to submit to the app with the funny name and weirdly unappealing presentation.
Despite downloading the app, it took another year for regular usage, and after months of engagement, coupled with the observation of uncannily focused relatives, navigating the madness of overloaded data — it’s obvious that my initial reluctance was warranted.
According to an article in the The Guardian, a research conducted by the BBC World Services revealed the epidemic of fake news in India, which likely incited the notable murders of a slew of “suspects,” that were targeted by the wirings of coerced content via WhatsApp, that depicted the mania around the horrifying trend of child abductions. The viral video allegedly showing an Indian boy being snatched, only escalated the hysteria, which resulted in the mob deaths of locals who appeared suspicious in the presence of children.
There’s also the political interference that possibly helped to spread the growing bias against Muslims, and the sudden popularity of Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi, which was stimulated by the urgency of users to forward manipulated videos to relatives and friends, as a way to engage in societal issues that align with beliefs, by working against politicians on opposite sides.
The irony is that India and Nigeria are practically in the same boat when it comes to heavy reliance on WhatsApp, and the contagious virus that’s too cunning to defeat.
Americans can certainly relate to the potent invasiveness of fake news, which became the language of engagement during the 2016 elections, thanks to the betrayal of embattled social media platforms like — Facebook.
President Trump has spent the two years of his toxic presidency misusing the term “fake news,” in an effort to justify his nefarious agenda to demonize the pursuits of the media; specifically the outlets that relentlessly hold his administration accountable for ongoing atrocities.
But when the focus shifts to the “shithole”’countries that are already operating on a model that isn’t sturdy enough for the avalanche of misinformation, and the frightful aftermath— the fake news cycle becomes more than the annoying distraction that will eventually fade away.
After spending more time and energy than I would like to admit, trying and failing to educate my parents to the blurriness of the extra crisp videos — featuring questionable scenarios that range from political to comical — all I can ask is:
What the app is up with WhatsApp?
The only tangible item in that query is the unsettling fact that the encrypted information that comes through the app makes it impossible for coders to decode, which means there’s no surefire way of assessing how all the shit is getting through the network.
It also means that researchers and self-professed techies can’t efficiently gather the data that will alert them to how extensive this rampant issue really is, and whether or not it can be adequately controlled.
This is very bad news for the population in India, and for US-based Nigerians like me, who are helplessly stuck in a vortex of app-lemented dysfunction, that arouses the senses of invested users, and dulls the sensibilities of those who can’t tolerate the unappetizing platter of uncorroborated items.
Election season is looming in Nigeria and just like back in 2015 when the stakes were incredibly high, the stakes are even higher in 2019; thanks to the fateful interference of the Obama administration, that worked tirelessly with the Northerners to resurrect a relic from the past who has made the present climate tragically unlivable.
In early 2018, it was reported that Nigerians were flocking to the shores of Libya to escape the nightmare of their existence, and instead of shelter and security, they were and still are unwilling victims of human trafficking.
The deadly attacks from Islamic militant cell — Boko Haram that was initiated back in 2009, isn’t showing any symptoms of lethargy — as the once-trending #BringBackOurGirls remains activated with the direness of the school girls that will never make it home.
The wealth of resources that were meant to enrich and maintain the level of progression that would elevate the most populous country in Africa into the global market of worthy competitors — alongside industrialized nations — are being poached by Westerners who are shamelessly ignoring the humanitarian crisis they’ve helped to create out of pompous greed.
Nigerians are dwelling in desperation, fear and anger, and the mechanics of WhatsApp is assisting to foster those raw emotions that will only heighten as political upheaval becomes a real threat.
The group chats comprise of my mother’s tight circle of trusted allies, who encompass the full scope of her vibrant life, thus far. From childhood friends from boarding school to former co-workers, and the familial ties that bind and never let go — there’s the seductiveness of the ease of accessibility.
The propaganda videos are non-stop, and just because I’m luckily off the list doesn’t mean I’m immune to the methodical chaos, that keeps my parents blissfully engaged, and unaware of the vital role they’re playing in the widespread of shitty fare that could get us all killed.
The political stuff is my mother’s endearing passion, and while I’ve always admired that key quality, especially since its also my preferred vice, it’s ironic how it has been weaponized to serve a less honorable purpose.
The videos come fast and furious with the authority that demands immediate attention based on the ire of senders. The loaded contents indicate the worst case scenario for the future, as paraded contenders for the leadership of a country — that just surpassed India as the official host of the “most extreme poor people in the world”— are used as live figurines in staged hoaxes.
There’s also the prayer group of elitist Nigerians, who keep harassing my parents into the sin of asking God to sustain the soul of President Trump, who is doing the work of the Almighty with oppressive tactics that are levied on the LGBTQ community.
The tricks of the trade are never mastered by the users, who are blinded by topics of discontent, in ways that confirm the status of unyielding targets.
My job is to perpetually point out the obvious and wait to be disappointed with the evidence of how my best intentions will never be impactful.
WhatsApp is the center of dolled up garbage, that armor the clueless with the falsehood of their activism, when all that sharing without basic vetting is feeding an overfed beast, that will probably burst with the triumphant installation of another hapless monster as head of state.
It’s the principle of the perfect setup, that allows the victims to unknowingly victimize themselves with the mindset of spreading information that is meant to save — but actually kills with the skills of the ultimate mind-fuck.
My role is to clean up the never-ending messiness of the app that gave my parents permission to engage without formal training, while it formulates the assaults of stealth procedures.
Again, what the app is up with WhatsApp?!