Is Nigeria Suffering From Digital Technology ‘Masturbation’ Syndrome?

by Ahmed Olayinka Sule, CFA

Many, some or all of you may be concerned, horrified or outraged that I have used the ‘M’ word as part of the title for this paper. However, before disregard this paper and any future article that proceeds from this author, please lend me your ears.

Prior to the deregulation of the Nigerian telecommunication sector, the state-owned Nigerian Telecommunications (NITEL) Plc dominated the sector. During this period, the quality of service provided by NITEL was poor and many Nigerians had limited access to modern telecommunication infrastructures. Prior to 1999, very few Nigerians had access to computers and the lack of sufficient technological infrastructure such as the Internet, cable television and mobile phones constrained communication within the society.

Upon the deregulation of the telecommunication sector, the monopoly of NITEL was broken and new players both within and outside of Nigeria began to emerge. Players such as MTN, Econet and Globacom began to invest in modern telecommunication infrastructures, while other allied businesses within the information technology landscape began to thrive. The emergence of these new players also coincided with the improved economic fortunes of the new middle class that began to emerge at the dawn of the twenty-first century. This new middle class was able to gain access to modern digital technology. Furthermore businesses began to open up, offering a range of information technology services and solutions such as Internet browsing, business centers, mobile phone calling centers etc.

As a result of the deregulation of the telecommunication sector, Nigeria is quite different from what it was prior to the liberalisation of the telecom sector. Many Nigerians including the rich and poor, educated and illiterate, young and old, Muslims and Christians now have access to a range of telecommunication/technological products and services including mobile phones, smartphone’s, digital tablets, digital television and radio, Internet, computers, blogs and social media (including Facebook and Twitter).

The advent of this new digital age has contributed positively to the Nigerian economy and the Nigerian populace. It has opened up the economy and resulted in the emergence of new businesses within the technology sector, which has improved the unemployment situation, thereby pulling many Nigerians out of the quicksand of poverty. It has also kept Nigerians more informed and up to date. In addition, it has contributed to improved efficiency, as many tasks can now be completed within a shorter timeframe and with less error. Moreover, the digital age is gradually enabling civil society to more effectively put pressure on how Nigeria is governed as evidenced by the role played by the social media in the recent Occupy Nigeria protest. It has also provided social critics with a platform to monitor, critic and expose illegitimate activities of government officials.

Although the digital revolution has contributed positively to Nigeria, it is also exposing a previously unnoticed aspect of the Nigerian society. The abuse of digital technology is a worldwide phenomenon and as such Nigeria is not an exception. However, in Nigeria, the abuse of digital technology appears to have taken another dimension. In short Nigeria could be developing a Digital Technology Masturbation Syndrome (DTMS).

Technology masturbation is a derivative of two words namely technology and masturbation. While masturbation is defined as the stimulation of one's own genitals for sexual pleasure, I shall define technology masturbation as the use of digital technology to stimulate the release of one’s innermost thoughts, values or desires. 

Prior to the emergence of the digital revolution in Nigeria, many people had a number of negative thoughts, values and desires, which were either suppressed or retained in the subconscious. Due to the societal structure at the time, there were limited available channels to release these suppressed thoughts, values or desires; furthermore, the society would have frowned at some of these negative thoughts, values and desires. Could the emergence of the digital revolution have now provided Nigerians with a medium to release these innermost thoughts, values and desires?

Digital technology now appears to be a viable tool used by Technology Masturbators to release subconscious values, thoughts and desires into their conscious world. While many commentators have described masturbation as a form of self-abuse, in a similar vein, with the advent of digital technology in Nigeria, many of us are subjecting technology to serious abuse. As a consequence, things previously unheard of in Nigeria now occur regularly due to the availability of technology, which we have used to masturbate our suppressed values, thoughts and desires. Could it be that because we have been ‘starved’ of access to technology for many years that we now have a compulsive urge to abuse technology so as to make up for the lost years without technology?

What technology tools have been used to release these values, thoughts and desires? In what ways is technology abused in Nigeria? What are these suppressed values, thoughts and desires that are now being released by technology? Who are these Technology Masturbators? The answers to these questions will be addressed in the next couple of paragraphs.

Many Nigerians have utilised a number of digital technological instruments to release their suppressed values, thoughts and desires. Some of the technological tools used include but is not limited to Facebook, Twitter, online forums, blogs, Internet, iPad, Blackberry, iPhone and other smartphone’s.

The Nigerian Technology Masturbators can be classified into the following categories: The Ghoul, The Vain, The Pornographer, The Fraudster, The BIC and The Football Fanatic.

A Ghoul is someone who is morbidly interested in death or disaster. Prior to the advent of the digital revolution in Nigeria, people in this category of Technology Masturbators kept their morbid thoughts to themselves. Now that smartphones are now available throughout the country, they now have a medium to stimulate their fascination with death and disasters. When an accident occurs in which people are maimed, injured or killed, the Ghoulish Technology Masturbators will bring out their phones from their pockets (male) or handbags (female) to take a picture of the accident scene and the victims. It is difficult to understand why these people derive so much pleasure from taking images or recording of other people’s misfortune with their phones. These people would then transfer the images onto their computers and then upload the images to YouTube, Facebook or other online forums. The attitude of the Ghoulish Technology Masturbator is so sickening that in the event that someone is knocked down by a vehicle or shot by an armed robber, the first reaction of many these Technology Masturbators would be to bring out their phones and take pictures, rather than save the victims life. A couple of years ago, I attended a funeral and to my surprise a number of people attending the funeral brought out their phones to take pictures of the person who died.

There was once a time when the concept of “dignity in death’ was adhered to in Nigeria, but no thanks to these Ghoulish Technology Masturbators, the dead are no longer given their respect. One of the most sickening display of the insensitivity of these Ghoulish Technology Masturbators occurred in the aftermath of the June 2012 Dana Airline crash. Shortly after the plane crashed in Iju-Ishaga, Lagos, thousands of people residing in the area rushed to the scene, however, instead of rescuing the people in the plane, the Ghoulish Technology Masturbators, began using their phones to take images of the dying plane crash victims and record the scenes. A similar thing occurred when almost a hundred people were burnt to death after an oil tanker caught fire in Rivers State. 

Besides the stimulation of people’s ghoulish thoughts, digital technology has also proved to be a useful tool to stimulate the release of people’s suppressed vanity. Some people feel incomplete if they do not have access to the latest technological gadgets, even if they don’t know how to use it. We have people who will proudly brag, “I only use Apple products.” They are willing to acquire the latest iPad, iPhone, iPod, iMac and any other “I” related Apple products even though a) they don’t need it and b) they never utilise these IT assets to its optimal capacity. For these people, they acquire these products as either trophies, status symbols or just to keep up with the joneses. A couple of months ago, someone had a party and instructed all those who attended the party to buy her Apple gift vouchers for her birthday present. A number of Vain Technology Masturbators are Blackberry freaks who are ready to mortgage their conscience just to acquire the latest version of Blackberry phones. They would not mind stealing or sleeping with anything or anybody, just to get funds to buy the latest Blackberry phone. The prevalence of these Vain Technology Masturbators is what propelled Nollywood producer, Simony Pictures to produce a movie titled “Blackberry Babes” which highlights the insane craze for Blackberry phones in Nigeria. When the Blackberry Porsche was released in Nigeria early this year, many people thought that there would be little demand for this product due to the N380, 000 price tag. However, shortly after the product was launched in Nigeria, the blogosphere was filled with images of people posing with their Blackberry Porsche.

The Pornographer is a Technology Masturbator who uses technology to share nude or sexual images. Usually, the images shared are self images or images of ones spouse/partners. Very often, the Pornographer Technology Masturbator uses his/her smartphone to take nude self-portraits or record sexual sessions, which he/she then shares with his/her partners. In other instances, if a person has been jilted or his partner has been unfaithful, the aggrieved party will upload the nude images to the Internet for the whole world to see like the case of the female banker whose partner (co-worker) posted her nude image because she was having an affair with another person in the office. Some people use their smartphone to store nude images of themselves, which they use to market their ‘services’ or attract prospective partners. 

The fraudster is another type of Technology Masturbator who uses technology to conduct fraudulent activities. This is the most widely discussed Technology Masturbator category and they go by a number of names include Yahoo Boys and 419ers. These Technology Masturbators are fraudulent by nature and digital technology has provided an avenue for them to release their fraudulent genes. They derive pleasure from fleecing people of their hard earned cash. They operate by creating fictitious email accounts and then send emails to gullible people inviting them to partake in an inheritance or access to funds in a government bank account. They defraud their potential victims by requesting an advance payment, which they obtain before their victims can gain access to the illusionary funds.

BIC is the acronym for the phrase “Brave In Cyberspace.” This category of Technology Masturbators have a lot of suppressed rage, anger and frustration, however perhaps due to fear of being exposed for expressing such views, they have managed to keep a tight reign on their rage. With the advent of digital technology, the BIC are now able to hide behind the cloak of the privacy of cyberspace while expressing their views. Their theatre of operation is on the various online forums and blogs, which provide a platform for them to make incoherent, irrational or just plain wicked and evil comments. Because they can hide under the cover of privacy, they create false aliases on blogs and insult those who express views contrary to what they believe. Some of them can come across as very insensitive and irrational. For instance, a couple of months ago, a Nigerian blog reported the case of a young lady who was kidnapped and eventually killed. Rather than empathise with the family of the missing lady, these BIC Technology Masturbators began to hurl insults on the missing lady and develop various theories for her disappearance including suggestions that she eloped with a man. Some BIC’s even suggested that she deserved to be killed. In another instance, when a former FCT Minister lost his daughter in London, rather than commiserate with the man or remain silent, these BIC began to hurl insult at the minister and expressed their delight at the loss of the grieving fathers daughter. When people express an opinion on blogs or other online forums that differ from the opinions of these BIC Technology Masturbators, they will either attack the dissenter’s religious affiliation, political affiliation or tribal affiliation in addition to hurling personal insults rather than come up with an intelligent argument to challenge the opponents argument.

The final category of Technology Masturbator that I will discuss in this paper is the football fanatic. The Premier League is an English professional league for English association football clubs. The Premier League, which is one of the most watched football leagues in the world involves clubs like Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City competing in a league format on an annual basis for the Premiership League title. There was a time when the Premiership and other European League matches were not popular the Nigeria, however since the year 2000, these leagues have been relayed to our TV screens. Also the advent of digital cable television and the Internet has enabled many Nigerians to watch the Premier and other European league matches live. So far, so good.

However, there is now a disturbing trend whereby football fans are taking this Premiership craze to another level. Accepted that football fans are expected to be passionate about the team that they support, however, there is a line, beyond which this passion turns a fan into a fanatic. This line seems to have been crossed in Nigeria. For instance, there have been reported incidents where football fans in Nigeria have maimed rival fans as a result of Premier League matches taking place in England. In another incident, in the aftermath of Barcelona’s victory over Manchester United in the 2009 European Champions League, a Nigerian bus driver killed four people when he deliberately drove his minibus into a crowd of Barcelona supporters after his team (Manchester United) lost the Champions League final.

Having lent me your ears, some of you may still find my use of the phrase Digital Technology Masturbation Syndrome (DTMS) shocking, disappointing and annoying but what is more shocking, disappointing and annoying? - Is it the phrase DTMS or the fact that people are using digital technology to take pictures of dead bodies, which they share with their friends on Facebook? Is it the phrase DTMS or the fact that people are willing to steal, sleep around and kill just to have access to the latest smartphone or iPad? Is it the phrase DTMS or the fact that people are using their smartphones to take nude pictures of themselves and their partners and then posting it via social media for the whole world to see? Is it the phrase DTMS or the fact that people are creating fictitious email accounts to defraud people around the world thereby giving Nigeria a nasty reputation as a haven for fraudsters? Is it the phrase DTMS or the fact that people are willing to use the Internet to make insensitive comments and insult grieving families? Is it the phrase DTMS or the fact that people are willing to kill their fellow countrymen because of a football match played 1,072 miles away in London?

It is time for Nigerians to use technology for the advancement of mankind rather than to stimulate the release of our negative thoughts, values and desires; after all, technology was made for man, not man made for technology.

Let he or she that has ears…


Ahmed Olayinka Sule, CFA

September 2012

The views stated in this article are personal to the writer and do not represent the view or opinions of any company or organisation with which the author is or was associated.

© Ahmed Sule 2012