Now That The Broadcasts Are Over . . .

Now that the “Happy New Month!” broadcasts are over, we can have some respite. Well, almost. Broadcasts are never really over. Somehow, the ones who didn’t send their own broadcast messages yesterday (perhaps because their subscriptions expired or they couldn’t power their phone batteries or due to the network problem from operators we have come to live with) will still send theirs.

If by now you are still wondering what I mean by “broadcasts”, I am talking about Blackberry broadcast messages popularly known as “BC’s”. And even if you do not use a Blackberry but use Whatsapp, Viber or some other instant messaging app on your phone, it means the same thing: messages that are sent to several users at the same time.

Many Blackberry (including Whatsapp) users find broadcast messages very annoying, no, downright irritating.

Some of these broadcasts are seasonal. Like those you receive during festivities and public holidays (Easter, Christmas, New Year, Sallah, etc.). Others come once in a while (like a vacancy announcement that might be helpful to someone or a business promotion). Yet other have no pattern, no informational value, completely inappropriate and childish.

Yesterday, for instance, was the first day of July. As expected, there was an avalanche of “Happy new month. . . “ broadcast messages. Some were colourful. Some others, though not so colourful, were very likely from the heart of the senders – genuine prayers and expression of goodwill in the new month. However, many were just pirated- same messages being recycled over and over.

So, what’s the point of this whole piece? Well, it’s partly to educate many of us Blackberry users that we all can be a lot more sensitive about the broadcasts we send and to prepare the minds of others who receive such on the best attitude because the BB messenger feature is the most popular one among users in Nigeria. You just get used to it or like they say, “get a Nokia phone”.

To begin with, there are particular kinds of broadcasts I do not like. See them:

1. “Broadcast or Update Cancelled”: I used to get a lot of these rapidly circulating messages claiming that Blackberry users must broadcast the same message to all their contacts or they would miss out on a BBM update and would no longer be able to chat with friends because they would have the old version. This is a hoax and of no effect.
2. “Broadcast and Get New Symbols”: These one urge users to broadcast the message and some new symbols or emoticons would be automatically updated on their phones. Laughable!
3. “This is from Jim Basalmic”: The messages used to claim that “this is a message from Jim Basalmic, CEO of Blackberry . . . bla bla bla.” This was as a time when the name of the company was still Research In Motion (RIM) and had two co-CEOs, Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis. RIM is now Blackberry and has Thorsten Heins as CEO. But those who send these broadcasts have moved from Blackberry to Whatsapp. The messages on Whatsapp now are “. . . this is a message from Jim Basalmic, CEO of Whatsapp. . .” Naija!!!
4. “Don’t break this chain or . . .”: These ones are chain messages telling you to broadcast and your phone would ring within minutes for good fortune or to prevent some evil from happening to you. Balderdash!
5. “Contact Check!”: What’s the use? If you are not sure that someone is still on your contacts list, why not send the person a personal message to find out?

I know some of those reading this have a lot more of those kind of broadcasts. Of course we can’t forget the days when all kinds of “Akpors Jokes” held sway on BB. Maybe those “Akpors Jokes” broadcasts are still common but I haven’t received any in a while. Perhaps that I haven’t received any in a while could be due to the fact that I had to modify my contacts list (that means I deleted the most guilty ones).

Now that I have mentioned contacts list, it is pertinent to note that the type and quality of broadcasts you receive is a function of the kind of people you have on your contacts list.

We have talked of recipients of broadcasts. What about those who are always sending broadcasts? Believe it or not, your broadcasts say a lot about you, whether you originated them or you simply rebroadcast. Here are some ways broadcasts reflect on you, the sender:
1. It reflects your intelligence: Plenty people send broadcasts without even reading them. There was this particular broadcast that kept circulating about a baby with blood group AB lying critically ill somewhere in Abuja and urgently in need of blood. Now, if you ever did biology in secondary school, you can recall that people with blood Group AB are referred to as universal receivers because they can receive blood from any other group. So, I just kept deleting this broadcast because I knew someone was playing on our collective intelligence. I couldn’t stomach it anymore when a doctor friend on my contact also forwarded it. So I engaged her on whether it was a difficult thing to get a donor for someone with that blood group. It turned out that she had not even bothered to read the message before re-broadcasting.
2. It reflects how sensitive you are: Imagine you received a message like “daughters are beautiful and a blessing. If you believe this, use your daughter’s photo as a DP”. On the surface, this looks innocent enough and an appreciation of daughters. But if you have on your contacts a woman who has just lost an only daughter and you forward this to all your contacts including that woman, you are being insensitive and could end up reminding of her loss albeit unintentionally. So, the thing is to know your contacts and weigh what broadcast is relevant to them.
3. It reflects your values: The saying “Better to shut your mouth and be thought stupid, than open it and completely remove all doubt” holds true here. What you broadcast, whether photos, jokes, or other messages you send says a lot about what your values are. So, when you keeping sending those sexually explicit jokes your contacts form an opinion about you. You say “it’s just a joke na”. Really?
4. It shows courtesy and respect: Some folks ask for your BB pin and add you. They don’t even bother to say “hello”. Next thing you have is a bombardment of broadcasts from them. This is not right. The reason we have people as BB contacts is not so we can send the broadcasts. Put to good use, the blackberry messenger can be a fantastic relationship management tool.
5. It reflects on your credibility: Every time you have to retract a broadcast or offer and apology for sending an erroneous broadcast, your credibility takes a hit. And if a pattern forms with regards to this, chances are that people will simply learn to ignore your broadcasts or messages.

I’m not knocking broadcast messages. Sometimes, broadcasts have proved very useful. For instance, I follow @Gidi_Traffic and @TouchPH on twitter for regular traffic updates in Lagos and Port Harcourt and I get their updates via blackberry broadcasts also. So, even when I am not in Lagos, or Port Harcourt and I get such broadcasts that I think will affect some of my Lagos or Port-Harcourt-based contacts, I share with them and many have been very thankful for the information.

That’s one more thing about broadcast messages. You don’t necessarily have to send to all your contacts. Thankfully, Blackberry affords us the option of either sending to all or sending to a select group. Sometimes, you will need to weigh the message and decide on who it’s more useful to among your contacts.

And as for the message itself, be specific if it is location- or time-bound. Supply the location and time. Remember that tomorrow is the day after today. So, when you send a broadcast that says an event will happen tomorrow, that tomorrow may continue to be re-broadcast even two weeks after.

You can follow the writer on twitter @ehissman.

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