10th August, 2011
Me: â€œIâ€™m sorry, but may I know you and why youâ€™re asking?â€
Texter: â€œMy name is Helen. I saw your number on Frenzo Chat and thought we could get to know each other.â€
Me: ? ? ? (Bewilderedâ€¦â€¦silent. No reply).
Texter: â€œPlease, please, Iâ€™d really like to be friends with you. I think we can have a mutually benefitting relationship.â€
The fpregoing was an actual conversation that played itself out on my mobile some weeks ago and it was as bewildering as it was disturbing. I was just going through my text messages when I saw the text and for the life of me wondered who wanted to know if I was busy. My curiosity was aroused more because the number that texted me was unfamiliar as it started with 547, followed by several other digits. Several thoughts ran through my mind as I stared at my phone that day. My initial thought was that it was texted to me in error and when I responded, I had expected the sender to just apologise and end the conversation there! I also thought the number could be a foreign number and wondered which country code it could be. At the same time, and even whilst responding, it occurred to me to be cautious so as not to fall prey to scammers who use gsms to commit fraud and all that stuff.
What got my adrenalin going and really freaked me out was when the texter claimed she had seen my number on a social network called Frenzo Chat and I wondered how that could have happened. For one, and prior to that text, I had never heard of the network. Secondly, my known friends are forever complaining that I donâ€™t get in touch with them as often as I should, so itâ€™s not that Iâ€™m in dire need of cultivating new friendships or that I am lonely and looking for who to talk to. How in the world my number got into this personâ€™s hand, or how I got registered with Frenzo Chat for that matter, is still pretty much a mystery to me till dateâ€¦ E gba mi o!
The one that has now become a nightmare for me is the fact that ever since that fateful day, I have received and am still receiving texts from uncountable individuals who keep bombarding my phone, disturbing my hitherto peaceful life with friendship requests and telling me to call or text them. I sought the help of one computer guru I know who advised me to call 547, a.k.a Frenzo, maybe Iâ€™ll be prompted on how to exit the application by texting OUT 1â€¦.and I did. I was thereafter informed that I had been successfully logged out of the network. I heaved a sigh of relief, but my respite was only momentary as I was soon receiving the horrible messages again!
I am still confounded about how I got registered or connected to the network in the first instance. I thought I might have inadvertently picked up the 547 call and got registered somehow, the reason being that when my phone rings, I may or may not look closely at the number calling before I pick. But then again, our phones are daily bombarded with various computerized calls nowadays (0404 familiar?). But where you pick your calls and find an unfamiliar voice talking to you, all you need do is drop the call if youâ€™re not interested in what is being offeredâ€¦.thereâ€™s no crime in that, I believe? Letâ€™s now even suppose that I had consciously and of my own free will joined the network,â€¦ should I not also have the free will and freedom to pull out of it, if I so wish? Should I forever be enslaved to it? Like we say in this part of the world â€œShuoâ€¦.You no fit by force me, na!â€
Honestly, the development is quite disturbing to me and I know some people may say, whatâ€™s the big deal? And I say itâ€™s a big deal when I can no longer enjoy some peace of mind just because I have a phone. The incessant calls and texts we daily get from our network providers, from known and unknown corporate outfits, religious and non religious associations, etc, who daily thrust their adverts into our eyes and ears have become a nuisance and are sufficient for the day nowâ€¦haba! Is this the price we have to pay for living in the computer age? I honestly wish I could get a phone thatâ€™ll give me the option of blocking out or restricting certain messages from entering it.
Perhaps I can use this medium to call on the NCC, being the regulatory body for the service providers, to please intervene and help regulate their activities. I accept that the network providers are trying to expand their frontiers and are looking at the bottom lineâ€¦but shouldnâ€™t there be some decorum in the way and manner they carry out their business in terms of the number of texts that should be sent to a subscriber in a given day and within a reasonable time? Can you imagine 0404 calling you around 11.00pmâ€¦.for what now? Thereâ€™re also the health implications of all these actions to be considered. We are all aware that excessive usage of the gsm could be hazardous to oneâ€™s health; hence the commission may need to put some restraining measures in place and curtail the excesses of these service providers and their customers lest they go on a frolic and cause untold damage to all of us.
Finally, let this piece not be misconstrued, please, for I am not against anyone applying to join any social network if theyâ€™re so inclined. Iâ€™m just expressing the need to appreciate other peopleâ€™s feelings too, especially those of us who cherish our privacyâ€¦.Please, live and let live!
â€¢Toyin Onanuga is a senior civil servant based in Lagos, Nigeria.