For the past one month, the word #Malaka has gained prominence on Facebook. Initially, I thought #Malafaka was just a funny word that people brought up on social media until I found out recently the originator of its prominence on Facebook. To those of you who don’t understand what #Malafaka means, it is a malapropism of the swear word Motherf***ker. In Ghana, it is widely known that some people of Ashanti descent find it difficult pronouncing “R” in a word hence they end up replacing it with an “L” when pronouncing. E.g., Some people pronounce “Brother” as “Blather”.
On 22nd December, the much talked about Jigwe awards finally came off. Jigwe awards is a flagship spoof awards organized by television station Viasat 1 Ghana to honor key personalities, individuals, and organizations that have attracted the most headlines and have been the most talked about for various reasons during the year. A lot of people swept home various awards but one award winner became a topical issue on social media for various reasons. She’s in the person of Rashida black beauty.
She was nominated for the category of viral video of the year and she emerged the winner on the day of the awards. A section of the public shared in her joy for winning the award while others criticized the television station for investing their money and awarding people like her. They have valid reasons for their criticisms which you’d find out soon.
The story behind Rashida’s unprecedented “Stardom” goes like this. Rashida took to Facebook and vented expletives at her ex-boyfriend named kushman for jilting her for another girl. I’m not that fluent in the Akan language in which she harangued her ex-boyfriend but per what a journalist wrote concerning this issue “She insulted Kushman, and did not spare his mother. She did not end there. She revealed in the video that when she met Kushman, he didn’t know how to have sex properly. She bragged about her sexual prowess and how she taught Kushman to have proper sex”. She went further to verbally abuse her ‘albino” ex-boyfriend, mocking his skin condition. She repeated the swear word “mother f***er” several times but because she could not speak English and did not know how to pronounce the word, it came out as “malafaka.”.
I couldn’t control my laughter while watching the video and when she concluded with the infamous “Malafaka” word, I laughed out loud. I do not condone Rashida raining insults on her ex-boyfriend and using unprintable words to describe him. I don’t also think any Ghanaian in their right frame of mind would condone such act.
That is why I find it unfair for some people to be criticizing Viasat 1 television for celebrating this young girl and awarding her with an investment of GHc2000 for such an act. As I stated earlier, it was a spoof award and you don’t actually expect it to comprise of serious categories as it is done during the Vodafone Ghana Music Awards or Order of the star of Ghana award category during the National Honours and Awards ceremony.
I’m not part of the organizers of the Jigwe awards but from what I saw on social media, Facebook users were required to comment with the names of their preferred nominee. Based on common sense I think the winners won based on the highest number of comments they received. I also believe most people rooted for Rashida, not because of her belligerent behavior but because of the funny way she pronounced the #Malafaka word. One question we should ask ourselves is whether the video went viral on Facebook and met the criteria of Jigwe awards Viral Video of the year category. If another person had won this category, would it have generated this fuss?
There are some people who have questioned why such a video will go viral on social media. I think it’s high time people accept social media for what it is and not what they want it to be. Social media, particularly Facebook has gone beyond just connecting with people and chatting into something like a 2nd version of the internet where anybody can gain access and use for their own gratification even though there are terms and conditions governing it. Facebook wasn’t created to fit into our culture.
Facebook has community standards and if these standards are violated, a user can make a report and the necessary sanctions will be implemented.
On 20th April 2016 I attended the TEDxAccra Masterclass session with Africa’s investigative journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas. One of the speakers at the event was Abeiku Santana and he titled his talk RE-THINK, RE-EXAMINE, REDEFINE YOUR PURPOSE ON SOCIAL MEDIA. He recounted how the British High Commissioner to Ghana, Mr. Jon Benjamin sent him a direct message on Twitter when he was transferred to Ghana asking he (Abeiku Santana) to follow him and ask his followers to also do same because he found him very active on social media. Abeiku Santana then asked a poignant question which kept me thinking for some time. What does your presence on social media impact? He later urged us to rethink, re-examine and re-consider our purpose or objective on social media.
In as much as people leverage social media and undertake positive ventures and reap benefits, there are others who also leverage social media for the wrong reasons and still benefit. Trending is now the order of the day on social media, especially Twitter. I sometimes wake up on Sundays to find unnecessary topics trending on Twitter. I hear there are people who specialize in pushing some of these trends and they sometimes get paid for it. This same trending feature was leveraged on by Gary Al Smith when he led the #CNNGetItRight campaign to draw the attention of the news tabloid to a false reportage made about Ghana. In the end, it yielded the desired result and CNN corrected the error. This means anything can trend on social media whether good or bad. So far as you can get a lot of people talking about it, it would trend.
When it comes to videos going viral on social media too, it’s humans who are behind it, either for fame, fun or monetary purposes. A typical example is the video sharing app, Vine which is embedded in Twitter. It allows people to film short, separate experiences so they can be linked together for a total of six seconds. Each short video plays in a continuous loop, and are viewable directly in Twitter’s timeline or embedded into a web page. Vine has provided a platform for creativity and turned creators into social media superstars with millions of followers, and in some cases billions of looping views. Vine stars aren’t just getting famous; they’re also getting rich. They rely on their tremendous social clout to rake in cash. Viners can earn big time cash by selling brands access to their audience. Some advertisers will pay top dollar for a shout out, or even just a revine, from a popular creator. Interesting right?
The issue of videos such as Rashida’s going viral can be attributed to an argument which ensued during my journalism lectures that; negative or odd occurrences make news than positive ones. E.g. When a plane lands safely, it’s no news but when a plane crashes while landing, it is news.
This same principle pertains to videos going viral on social media. News of a girl who swept multiple awards on her graduation day won’t go viral compared to Rashida’s video.The big question my Nigerian friends would ask is; Na who cause am? I’d say it’s the doing of Ghanaians on social media.
When Rashida won the award, I saw a post of a gentleman attributing Rashida’s stardom to his doing. He claimed to be the one who made the video go viral. Could it have been avoided? Of course Yes!! People could have just hit the report button and tagged it as abusive and facebook would have reviewed it and taken it down.
People rather chose to hit the share button thus making it go viral. I bet Rashida’s video wouldn’t even have attracted a like on LinkedIn because of the business and employment-oriented nature of this platform.
In as much as people are chiding Viasat 1 and questioning their moral judgment, I think they should cut the TV station some slack. The blame should rather go to every Facebook user who hit the share button beneath Rashida’s video. Just a single report would have saved us this controversy. Rashida’s video going viral is a reflection of the values we as a people espouse and embrace on social media.