The Silly Urge To Break Bad News, By Emeka Oparah

Social media has unravelled so many hidden things, exposed so many people and demystified so many. Some people I held in high esteem have turned out to be very ordinary and even foolish, in some cases. Let me talk about one aspect of this demystification, which is the silly urge or haste to break bad news. Of course, social media may have democratized journalism-so even the untutored and unlettered can report news and events-but how came it we no longer look before we leap, in a manner of speaking?

For some very “trendy” folks, age is no barrier. I once sat in a funeral service and watched an 80-something-year-old recording bits and pieces of the proceedings. He was obviously capturing the sad moment for his family or friends who couldn’t make or even for himself, to revisit at his spare time, especially the very touching and telling homily by the officiating priest. But I digress.

Why are people in a hurry to break news? I can almost imagine the Adrenaline pumping around their bodies as they drop the piece of news in a text or video and then sit back to watch the comments, likes and shares. They, however, do not reckon with the impact of what they have posted or shared.

Unable to sleep one night, I went, like a regular drunk, to my favorite Facebook to see what’s up. What did I see? A post by a young man showing the dead body of a female NYSC member and her ID card with a comment that whoever knew her should go to 9th Mile Corner, Enugu, to pick up her body! Wow! Apparently the young lady died in a car crash.

I engaged the poster inbox immediately and appealed to him to pull down the image of the woman and rephrase the post to say that the owner of the ID Card was involved in a motor accident at 9th Mile. Period. For some reason, the guy took my advice and did the needful. You can imagine if the lady’s family saw the initial post! How would any parent or any relative for that matter react to such a post?

Before you report that death (Breaking News), put yourself in the shoes of the family of the dead. I know a lady who visited her sick mom in Nigeria from London, spent time with her and the flew back. Sadly, her mom passed away the night she flew back. But guess what? She got off the plane, put on her phone and she was hit by a barrage of text messages, Whatsapp messages and even facebook posts on her mom’s passing! Imagine the shock. The husband who came to pick her at the airport had to rush her to Emergency.

I have a habit, which I’d like to recommend to you, my dear friends. Until someone in the family of the deceased announces the death, I never post or share a post about it. It’s rude, disrespectful, unfair and actually wicked to do share such news ahead of the family. Imagine reading about the passing of a loved one, friend or family on facebook! Terrible!!!

Who can forget the eternal embarrassment faced by some politicians back in the day, when they rushed to announce the demise of the Great Zik? None. Forget the embarrassment you’ll suffer, if it turns out to be untrue, but think of the harm you’ll cause a loved one even if it’s true.

If you are not absolutely sure, do not post and do not share. In the case of death or such like, do not post or share, absolutely sure of not, until the family makes the announcement.

Thank you and have a good day.

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