A caste system is a type of social structure which divides people on the basis of inherited social status amongst other considerations. Permit me to ultimately define the subject of my article “e-caste system” to mean a type of social media structure which divides people on the basis of an assumed plus perceived social media status.
Caste is an elaborate and complex social system that combines elements of endogamy, occupation, culture, social class, tribal affiliation and political power. Could it be that the fun and playfulness usually associated with social media may have begun to embrace unwittingly, a brand new caste structure which I have succinctly termed “e-caste system”? Could it be that complex social interactions are now constantly playing out across social media? Are we at the beginning of the creation of a new social media caste system determined by how and when we update our various social media platforms, connect and comment? Has ancient finally met modern in a queer but convenient twist of technology evolution?
All these questions will form the bulk of our journey as we explore the emerging e-caste system in the Nigerian Social Media space.
To highlight the emerging e-caste system in Social Media, Twitter will be focused on. Why Twitter? Firstly, the practice where Twitter users become verified has inadvertently made the platform a preferred one in establishing bragging rights. Secondly, the assumption that the more followers one has ultimately makes the folk an instant celebrity has also made the platform an elitist preference.
I remember with nostalgia my journey into the world of Twitter. It all started with a light hearted attempt at a debate featuring my colleague in the work place, @Bialalori and myself. He was going on and on about this social media platform called Twitter. I tried to understandably inform him that Facebook holds more sway as far as social networking was concerned. To cut a long story short, he was able to extract an unconditional promise from me to learn more about twitter.
Not long after this, I was privileged to attend a Social Media Marketing boot camp organised by @ofilispeaks. I paid my way to Lagos from the non-traffic laden city of Abuja. The take away for me from the event was that there was something called social traffic and that Twitter is a very important driver of social traffic. I quickly connected the dots between what I had earlier learnt from my colleague and what I learnt from Ofili on getting back to Abuja. Bottom line, @blossomozurumba and its associated brand #AdoptATweep went from unknown to known within and outside the Twitter space.
In the past 16 months that I have been quite active on Twitter, I have been able to take a detached but detailed look at the various e-caste systems present in the Twitter platform. I am certain that you can identify me in one of the systems. I am equally certain that you will effortlessly identify yourself as well.
• Offline Super Star, Online Super Star: A person that has an instant name recognition both offline and online. This “class” of people include Footballers, Comedians, Musicians, Actors, Religious Leaders, and Political Figures etc. The probability of their Twitter accounts becoming verified is almost at a 100%. Most often, they are so busy with their offline activities than to adequately interact with their online fans and supporters. The joy most people get upon receiving a ‘follow back” or a retweet from this “class” of individuals could be equated to an actual real life encounter with them. Their thoughts, however random, are perceived to be stamped with authority.
• Offline Super Star, Online Regular User: A person that had an instant name recognition long before the advent of Twitter. The generation that knew them are not necessarily on Twitter to adulate them. They include former political figures, Yesterday’s men/women, aging athletes, once famous musicians and past beauty queens. They most often have time on their hands as their once tight schedules have become watered down. Even when they post an update on twitter, no one takes notice as they are just the regular guy/lady on the online space.
• Offline Random Person, Online Super Star: These are the present day, real time and undisputed Twitter celebrities. Take away their Twitter account and they become inconsequential. This is the random person that is hardly known in real life outside his immediate circle of influence. When this “class” of persons suddenly encounters Twitter, he/she optimally utilizes it to amplify his/her thoughts, becoming an online super star. The probability of their Twitter accounts becoming verified is almost a 0% or at best negligible. These persons are interesting characters as they feel that the Twitter space need them more than they need it. They have an assumed air of importance due to their new found Twitter celebrity status. It will not be strange to see these folks introducing themselves by their Twitter handles.
• Offline Regular Folk, Online Regular Folk: An interesting set of people, this “class” of people makes up the majority of young Nigerians on Twitter. Most often when they manage to pay their internet subscription, they go further to elevate, revere seemingly worthy folks or celebrities on Twitter. To the offline celebrity/online super star, he/she is a fan. To the offline celebrity/online regular folk, he/she makes up the pity-party team. To the offline random folk/online super star, he/she is a “voltron” or a “vextron” as the case may be. A Voltron is one that will go to any length to ensure that the Twitter celebrity’s effect of his/her “famzing” subject is maintained for a period. On the other hand, if he/she feels that the subject is not worthy of attention, the “vextron” attitude is unleashed. This involves using abusive words on the subject and most often make the subject an object of ridicule, scorn and mockery.
This hypothesis put forward is left to the reader to agree or disagree. Social media itself and our human creativity present an opportunity for social media users have a double life or character; real life and virtual. One thing remains, we cannot take away who we are.
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