Fallen Angel: Deadly Perils Of Social Media
The shocking and senseless murder of the beautiful Miss Cynthia Udoka Osokogu created a deep sense of unease in the heart of all Nigerians, especially in the hearts of parents with children at the tertiary level. She had been reported missing since late July 2012 by her concerned family. A month later this story came to a heart-wrenching tragic conclusion with the discovery of her body in a morgue.
Enterprising Cynthia was a 24-year-old postgraduate student of Nasarawa State University and a clothing retailer as well. She had allegedly been chatting with some new friends whom she had met on the social network Facebook.
Facebook is a social media tool founded and launched by Mark Zuckerburg in a Harvard dorm room. The media chat room is especially popular with young adults for it provides a medium for sharing concepts and ideas of interest. Facebook can best be described as the world’s most popular social network. In 2009, Facebook had 200 million active users, overtaking MySpace as the world’s largest social network. There was a flooding of messages, photography, and status updates streaming to and from its zealous users. The company continued cultivating and growing with the 2010 debut of the “like” button and, in 2011, the launch of Timeline which paved the way for Facebook to integrate personal data from the rest of the web. Facebook has been hailed as the revolutionary tool of modern communication, turning the world into an even smaller global network.
But Facebook’s growth as an internet social-networking site has, from its inception, met criticism on a range of issues, including child safety, online privacy, hate speech and the inability to terminate accounts without first manually deleting the content. In 2008, several companies removed their advertising from the site because it was being displayed on the pages of controversial individuals as well as groups. Inflammatory topics such as politics, religion and sex have been promoted on Facebook, causing several lawsuits against the company.
In August 2007, the code used to generate Facebook’s home and search page as visitors browse the site was accidentally made public, according to leading internet news sites. A configuration problem with its server caused a confidential code to be displayed instead of where the web page code should have been created, and there was a serious cause for concern on how secure private data on the site were. Social networks, like Facebook, can have a detrimental effect on marriages with users becoming worried about their spouse’s contacts and relations with other people online, leading to the breakdown of a marriage or even divorce. Shockingly, in the U.K., between 20-33 per cent of divorce petitions cite Facebook as a cause. The site has also been criticized for misleading campaigns, adding stress to the lives of its users, making people envious due to the constant exposure to positive yet unrepresentative highlight of their peers, misleading campaigns, privacy infringement, identity theft, defamation of character - the list is simply horrendously endless.
Unemployment is the evil social monster engulfing our youths in Nigeria today. According to the minister of agriculture, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, Nigeria’s unemployment rate is fast spiraling and growing at 11 per cent yearly. He said, “Youth unemployment rate is over 50 per cent. Our unemployment rate is spiraling, driven by the wave of four million young people entering the workforce every year with only a small fraction able to find formal employment.”
The Ministry of Youth Development reported recently that there are 68 million unemployed youths in Nigeria. Annually 300,000 graduates enroll in the NYSC scheme and the Population Reference Bureau has said that the population of Nigerian youths is a staggering 43 per cent. These appalling statistics are a shame and embarrassment to all Nigerians. But most importantly, there should be severe concerns by the society at large and the critical question should be: what are these youths resorting to during this idle time in their lives? The rise in robberies, kidnapping, terrorism, rape, vandalism of oil pipelines and other crimes is sadly the answer to that question.
Nwabuzor Okwuoma (33), who claimed to be a student of University of Lagos (UNILAG), befriended Cynthia initially through Facebook and later through a group on Blackberry Messenger. After many exchanges between the two of them, Okwuoma convinced Cynthia to take a business trip to Lagos in order to negotiate bargain sales of clothing items for her retail shop located in Nassarawa. In collusion with his cousin, Ezekiel Odera (23), an undergraduate of Anambra State University, they picked the innocent Cynthia from Lagos airport and took her to a hotel which they had paid for in Festac town. They drugged the poor unsuspecting girl with Rohypnol, a sedative drug commonly known as the “date rape drug”. It was alleged that they apparently strangled her to death and raped her for several hours before stripping her of her valuables and leaving her corpse chained to the Hotel bed. It is an abomination and an unforgivable sin that they molested her even after they snuffed the life out of her. They were later apprehended through the use of CCTV cameras at the hotel and mobile phone calls traced to them. These psychopaths were dishonest young men that are professional criminals and fraudsters who specialized in luring unsuspecting young women and stealing from them.
Cynthia’s story ended tragically because, like most children and adults that use social media networks, we are not informed enough about online privacy and social media responsibility. It would be unwise to forbid a young adult to register on these sites; rather, it would be more effective to sensitize them on information about how to protect one’s privacy on the internet and how to use social media responsibly. For even though social sites allow us to connect with friends and family, they are also potentially dangerous breeding grounds for predators and criminals alike. As parents we have to prioritize the education of our children by encouraging them to use diligently the privacy tools provided by sites to protect their identities and location from strangers. The government also has a social obligation to embark on a national campaign of awareness to emphasize that whatever information Nigerians share on the web is not only public but permanent as well. By educating citizens on ways to protect their privacy, people will reconsider how they share information as well as the calibre of people they can accept as “friends”.
As a mother with a young daughter, I have been touched by this tragic story beyond what words can describe. Along with Major General Frank Osokogu (rtd) and Mrs Osokugu and their entire family, I join millions of Nigerians in mourning the loss of this beautiful fallen angel. It has pained me in ways unimaginable that some media channels have twisted certain facts for the sake of sensationalism by trying to tarnish her image. Some have incredibly gone as far as criticizing the family’s statements and reactions after the discovery of the heinous crime. This is a family that is in mourning and totally unprepared for the tragedy that has befallen them. The main focus should be on supporting the family in this trying period, and finding solutions to cyber crime. Let us accept that all Nigerians are potential victims of this tragic event and that Cynthia’s death should be seen as that of a heroine. It should serve as a serious warning of what could happen as a result of misguided cyber -friendship.
I want to use her own mother’s words to describe this lost diamond. “Cynthia was a very industrious and respectful child. She was my daughter, my friend and my sister. Her memory will never be forgotten because she has touched so many lives positively in her short stay on earth.”
May this fallen angel rest in peace.