Nobody Can Bully Me on Social Media: How BBNaija's Leo Dasilva, Celebs Take Their Stand Against Online Trolls

Nobody Can Bully Me on Social Media: How BBNaija's Leo Dasilva, Celebs Take Their Stand Against Online Trolls

Cyber-bullying has eaten deep into the fabric of social media interactions. Unfortunately, celebrities and public figures alike are often at the receiving end of these harsh and unkind words. But the tide is turning, with many taking their power back and refusing to be at the mercy of bullies.

Nollywood's Eniola Badmus shared a photo on her official Instagram page on Sunday, November 10, 2019, just like every other random day. It was posted in the spirit of keeping up with her online community.

Cyberbully notifications from laptop.
Notifications of hate speech from an internet user's laptop. Photo: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

The selfie was taken in front of a full-length mirror and one could almost tell that it was an “I’m feeling good about myself” picture.

The Instagram post racked thousands of likes from Eniola’s fans and colleagues but it was also an opportunity for a user on the platform identified as Mundi Joseph Geoffrey to take a swipe at her with an unkind comment.

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Geoffrey had written in Eniola’s comment section “see as you dey shapeless like agege bread,” a remark which garnered likes from others on the platform and even caught Eniola’s attention.

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To his utter surprise, Eniola managed to find the humour in his rude and unflattering comment and didn’t give him a chance for an ugly back and forth that would have propelled bloggers into clickbait titles.

Geoffrey would eventually return with a comment where he admitted that his motive was to get the movie star’s attention.

“Wow, thought you are gonna talk back at me but you didn’t, you must be one hell of a celebrity and forgive me for my comments…I was only trying to get your attention. I want you to know you are beautifully, heavenly made. Much love, tuale mama.”

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A defining moment happened for the actress on December 9, 2020, when she literally had to plead with the world to let her be. Her Instagram post is shared below:

Cyber-bullying is described as the use of information and communication technology, for the harassment or mistreatment of another.

Celebrities/public figures have found themselves at the receiving end because of their individual stance on inflammatory issues such as politics, governance or even something as simple as their preference in a song or movie.

These trolls, as they have so been named, post repetitive offensive comments, create burner accounts to belittle their victims and at other times, weaponize an individual’s insecurities.

Sadly, in Eniola’s case, her weight was a constant talking point. There have been speculations that her drastic physical transformation was motivated by harsh treatments she received from social media bullies over the years.

Taking your power back

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“Personally, I don’t feel anyone can bully me on social media or anywhere,” former Big Brother Naija (BBNaija) housemate, Leo Dasilva tells Legit NG's Adeyinka Odutuyo.

These are not just words of mouth that hold no weight for Dasilva. Leo caught wind of a nasty comment from an Instagram user in October 2018.

The user, @Shehu7196, had made a seemingly concerned observation about Leo in relation to his friendship with fellow Double Wahala star, Cynthia Nwadiora better known as Ceec.

In every means possible, the individual was kept in check by Leo’s response.

“@Shehu7196 hello, Cynthia doesn’t need to stop calling herself king or whatever she wants to make me feel like a man. I am a full a** grown a** man that knows he’s a man. They can call me what they like, I know who I am. I create opportunities for people like them. I will continue being a visionary and iconic. Any man can call me what they like, doesn’t matter. Doesn’t change me being an ICON living with God’s grace," he wrote.

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More than three years after that exchange, Dasilva holds that there’s a line to be drawn between disrespect and bullying.

“People have their views and some can be disrespectful about it. Disrespect is not bullying for me. It’s just people showing their level of comprehension and tolerance. Comments I face can be bullying to others and I handled it by not handling it.”

The businessman equally pays no mind to bullies who are quick to hide under the guise of offering candid advice on how to do better.

“Constructive criticism should come from people close to you that love and want the best for you like family. Most people online want to use your name to score points and attention. It’s never really coming from a place of care most times.”

Even if the likes of Daddy Freeze, Frank Edoho, Reno Omokri have been criticised for always paying minds to trolls and clapping back, Dasilva agrees that choosing the path of silence is not always in the best interest of those being bullied.

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“It’s best to address things that should be addressed. There are some things that are pointless to address like baseless accusations and a general lack of comprehension.”

JayOnAir plies the route of silence

With combined followership of 46k fans on Instagram and Twitter, skit maker Joseph Onaolapo aka JayOnAir, says he started his career with a clear intention in mind.

“When I started out in this business, I just said to myself ‘you know what, I’m not going to pay a lot of attention to people that don’t mean me well.’ So it is pretty easy. From how you write out your comments towards me, I can easily separate a person that means me well or doesn’t. And when I get constructive criticism, I make sure that I respond.”

JayOnAir, on the other hand, gets trolled even as an on-air personality and plying the route of silence has helped him handle social media trolls in the same way. “It is so hard sometimes," the humour-merchant stresses.

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"But to be honest, I’ve told myself that I would not allow people’s worse to get to me. I work on radio and I’ve been trolled about my voice, about how I sound… I don’t respond to those people. So I’ve said the same thing I do on radio is the same thing I’m going to do on social media.’ "

You cannot run away

Platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook have introduced features such as mute, block buttons and an option to disable the comment section. Media mogul, Mo Abudu of Ebonylife Group is one known to have publicly embraced one of these features—but it is not without reasons.

On January 1, 2022, a sequel to the 2021-released Chief Daddy, was launched on the movie streaming platform, Netflix, to the harsh criticisms of Nigerians and movie lovers in the diaspora.

What followed was an unforgiving barrage of hate messages dumped in the comment section of actors who were featured in the movie, including Abudu who had sung high praises of the project pre-release.

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Abudu released a statement on her Instagram page that read in part:

“We appreciate your constructive feedback. This way, my team and I can continuously improve ourselves so we can deliver the great quality productions you have come to expect from Ebonyife studios. Please share your feedback respectfully otherwise we will have to restrict entry to you on our pages.”

Two months and a few weeks after, Abudu’s comment section remains disabled.

Freelance social media manager, Keem Tunde, says it is not the way to go, especially for public figures.

“Going private won’t solve it. Communication has gone beyond the one-way channel. To be relevant, at least, you need to be constant in communication (engagement) with your fans. Disabling comments won’t help you.”

The community manager shares his approach whenever he spots comments from trolls and online bullies.

“As someone who handles social media for business, the first thing I do is to identify why we’re getting such comment(s). And a quick check on who is making such. If the user has a history of trolling people, I ignore. If it’s a case of miscommunication on our part, we try to fix it in the DM with the affected party.”

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"Years are spent building reputations and it only takes one mistake to destroy them," Timileyin Omilana, a Public Relations strategist, tells this author during an exchange. "This process has never been more rapid or fierce than it is now in the age of social media," he adds.

How celebrities can handle bullies

Omilana agrees that dealing with online bullies is "a delicate matter" but for him, it's important for a celebrity or public figure to "recognize that there is little you can do to combat such a façade."

The PR executive also explained the best way forward for public figures who end up becoming what they are fighting against in the process of standing their ground.

"If you as a celebrity has caused the bully, it is always good to set the record straight (be most truthful and emphatic), followed by an apology if actually at fault. Another critical thing I believe such celebrities may do that has aided many others is to maintain a low profile or even abstain from social media for a period of time - after all, no brand wants to be connected with a bully."

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In the good words of late English actor and filmmaker, Charles Spencer Chaplin:

"My pain may be the reason for somebody's laugh. But my laugh must never be the reason for somebody's pain."

People must understand that regardless of social status or position, it is another human at the receiving end of that mobile device or laptop.

We must choose first to be human in a world where we can be many things...


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