Metropole Magazine

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02 Aug Written by  Ladi Opaluwa

The Road to Fame

It is held that the road to fame is long and arduous, but the young man hunched over his mobile phone, fingers tapping the device continuously, knows of a short, even paved route. If any effort is required, it is in monitoring the reaction to his latest comment on Facebook. With nearly five thousand friends, he is expecting good returns on his sociability.

The man is a writer, an atheist, and an activist. The complexity of his character entertains his friends.

His talent as a writer is in doubt but not his zeal. He may lack the qualification for his intellectual ambition, but is a capable moderator of online groups, often he succeeds in setting the agenda for discussion. He is a literary news broker.

As an atheist, he is a believer in the nonexistence of God, and a regular proselytiser of his faith. The Christendom is his laughingstock. What is a joke without a good-humoured victim?

He is an activist of sundry causes. No issue is beyond the reach of his compassion, be it animal rights, gay rights, free speech, girl child education. On one occasion he referred to himself as a feminist. He got his fame participating in the fuel subsidy protests and posting pictures of the event as evidence of his heroism. Since then there has been no shortage of news material to ignite righteous indignation: child bride legislation, the Rivers State Assembly crisis, Nigeria Governors Forum saga, Boko Haram....

For his views he has become popular, loved by many, hated by a few. He cannot bear to be unheard or not seen online for a couple of hours. To him, self-recommendation is acceptable behaviour. He encloses his thoughts in quotation marks and parcels them to friends at the speed of one thought per hour. The marks give the mundane some clout. Often he takes an ego trip down his timeline to recall the profound things he has said.

He loves the internet in all its manifestations. He is on twitter and has made disciples of a number of people, yet he prefers Facebook because folks over there are less impressionable and obsequious. Besides, he prefers to lead, and not to follow. With provocative statements and pictures of himself at his work-table, at a diner, on the road, in new cities, he forces himself into the consciousness of all. His brazen, lewd comments pander to the basest instincts of his admirers. He uses no euphemisms for any organ of the body because he aims to shock the reader. The pretence to have no moral or ethical principles is all part of the spectacle.

He loves eBooks and likens buying paper books to one of those quirky Western hobbies like collecting stamps. He believes that era of the reclusive writer is gone, that the Luddite specie is nearly extinct, and that Jonathan Franzen may well be the last surviving member of the clan.

(Franzen is the go-to guy for copious anti social media quotes like “we star in our own movies, we photograph ourselves incessantly, we click the mouse and a machine confirms our sense of mastery. And since our technology is really just an extension of ourselves, we don’t have to have a contempt for its manipulability in the way we might with actual people. It’s all one big endless loop. We like the mirror and the mirror likes us. To friend a person is merely to include the person in our private hall of flattering mirrors.”)

For this young man however, it is a bad day. Response to his post is slow. On this repeated refreshing of his homepage, he finds that only ten persons have liked the post, and four have commented. There is cause for panic. The ‘like’ option is the diplomatic device on Facebook. It shows acknowledgment, not necessarily approval. Scarce as they are, half of the comments contradict him. He is quick to delete the offending comments and block the gainsayers.

Next he picks on a famous personality and says something so mean he lands in a big but fleeting trouble. As is typical of Facebook, the argument is fervent but mostly pointless. It is a publicity stunt. Afterwards, his fame or notoriety rating increases.