There are 93.6 million Internet users (June, 2017) in Nigeria – a penetration rate of 48.8%. Of this population, those who use the Internet regularly and effectively to engage in society, politics, and government can be referred to Nigerian digital citizens. In Nigeria social media space, some are known as Twitter activists, controversial bloggers, Twitter Lords, Twitter feminist, Wailers, Party rats, Twitter or Instagram celebrity, Instagram Slaymama e.t.c.
The Nigerian digital society is interesting for it is an escape from Nigeria’s harsh realities for many young Nigerian digital citizens. In there, most digital citizens are empowered, their voices are heard and they are able to influence more people unlike when they are offline. Many have created a better identity for themselves, picked up a social role and risen to fame online and then offline.
Nigerian digital citizens unlike in many developing countries enjoys freedom of speech. Movements and campaigns like #OccupyNigeria, #Bringbackourgirls and #SaiBuhari have shown how powerful is the Nigerian digital citizenry. Nigerian digital citizens lead by very powerful and active digital citizens, like Oby Ezekwesili who is the founder of #BringBackOurGirls, #PickThatTrash, and #RedCardMng and Joe Abah a former senior government official, are promoting equal economic opportunity, as well as increasing political participation and civic duty online.
But while some citizens like Ezekwesili and Abah are leaving good digital footprints, others especially young Nigerians are leaving footprints that can damage their future. Every digital citizen leaves a public trail of pictures and comments they posted online that can be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to remove from the internet completely.
The Nigerian digital space especially, Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter are being used by many young Nigerians to promote hate, bigotry, tribalism and frauds, and in the process are generating highly damaging foot print. There are also posts of nudes, smoking and other vices; negative comments on political issues like Boko Haram and herdsmen-farmers clashes; or social issues like sexual harassment, rape, Chibok girls and child marriage; which can be dugout and used against them by an employer, blackmailer, a business competition or a political opposition.
While as in the above case digital footprints are considered to be a liability, if managed well a digital footprint can be an asset since digital footprints can showcase identity, skills and interests. This is important in an era where employers ‘google’ candidates to check their identity and verify their suitability. In this context, having no digital footprint can be as much of a disadvantage as having a poorly managed one.
To be able to build a footprint into an asset. A Nigerian digital citizen need to learn and understand the following:
Digital Citizen Identity
A Nigerian digital citizen should learn how to build and manage a healthy online and offline integrity. They should use Handles, names, bios and post only comments and pictures that portrays theirs best character. They should know how to curate their online presence, that is, knowing what to display publicly and what should stay private.
Understanding the nature of digital footprint, their real life consequences and to how to manage them responsibly will go a long way in building a strong personal, business or professional digital identity. A digital citizen who is searching for a Robotic Engineering job online is expected to always post and comments on discussions, topic or tends on robotics and engineering to show case his/her skills and interests to potential employers. The digital artifacts which show their interests, achievements and skill should be made public and identifiable.
There is a need to learn critical thinking as most Nigerian Digital citizens lack the ability to distinguish between true and false information, good and harmful, trustworthy and questionable contents online as such swallow and share a lot of fake information or news, While Nigerian LinkedIn and Twitter users seems to be more intellectual, professional, careful and critical about the information they share, the majority of Facebook users are engaged with less intellectual contents and can’t distinguish between true and false information.
Digital Empathy – The posts and comments that accompanied the #Chibokgirls and #Bringbackourgirls hashtags showed that many Nigerians digital citizens lack digital empathy. Too many people up to those in governments viewed the abduction of the Chibok girls with little or no empathy. A digital citizen need to be emphatic towards one owns and other’s needs or feeling online irrespective of religions or ethnic affiliation.
Many Nigerian digital citizens lack enough digital literacy on how to use the privacy options of social media platforms. They should learn to handle with discretion all personal information shared online to protect one’s and other’s privacy.
They should learn how to manage the time spent using a phone or computer, manage multitasking and one’s online engagements. This is more important for young people who are becoming more addicted to their mobile phones, and are spending more time pressing their phones.
Nigerian digital citizens have their ways of handling cyberbullying with sarcasms, humors, shaming and clapbacks, however most, especially teenagers need to learn how to detect cyber bullying situations and handle it wisely.
Cyber Security Management
Nigeria digital citizens should learn to protect their data by creating strong passwords and also learn to manage cyber-attacks.
As the world is getting more digital by the second so is the importance and power of a digital footprint. It is wise to start curating a positive online presence from now on as this could go a long way to help you shape your own future for good.