There is a popular Nigerian saying that one should not wash his dirty linen in public.
However, with the advent of social media, it seems celebrities have thrown caution to the wind as they are quick to feed the public with details of their marital problems via their social media accounts.
But experts say when two elephants fight, the grass suffers – in this case the ‘grass’ being their children.
Saturday Beats focuses on some entertainers who have chosen the social media space as their battle grounds. They are the bases on which experts have lent their voices on the impact their actions have on their children.
About two days ago, Nigerians were surprised when the wife of a popular comedian, AY, posted a picture on her Instagram page, warning a pregnant lady, Freda Francis, who had once been romantically linked with singer, Iyanya, to leave her family alone. This came some hours after pictures surfaced online that the humour merchant attended Francis’ baby shower party on Sunday just like some other celebrities did.
Accompanied with her post, the mother of one also released some private chats believed to be between the comedian and the pregnant lady. From the moment her post hit the blogosphere, the stand-up comedian became the number one topic on various blogs across the country as people began to raise an eyebrow, insinuating that he probably was the father of Francis’ unborn child.
To make matters worse, the comedian seemed nonchalant about the whole situation and when he was contacted by an online news portal, he simply said, “And so if I impregnated Freda, is it something new? Because most of these celebs cover up? That na why you think say people never hear dis kain thing before. So what if na me give am belle? Abeg abeg! Na today?”
The infamous post by the stand-up comedian’s wife, Mabel, came barely after the dust had settled on the marital crisis between star actress, Mercy Aigbe and her estranged husband, Lanre Gentry, whereby the battle field was also the digital space.
Barely a month ago, the star actress and her husband went back and forth via their social media pages to attack and counter attack each other over matters that border from infidelity to domestic violence. While their case is still pending in court, the posts of the embittered couple who are responsible for the life of two children are still online and may remain there forever simply because the internet never forgets.
Since their marital problems have been brought to the public domain, it is only right for the public to comment on the issues with their children also dragged into the matter.
While granting an interview, Mitchelle, Aigbe’s eldest child spoke on how she faces cyber bullying for being exposed to her parents’ marital problems. She said, “You know, if you’re not strong it can reduce your self-esteem; that’s why I hardly read my comments. Sometimes comments make me feel like crying. Like yesterday someone said something bad about my mum and they are now bringing it to my page. I’m young, I’m not supposed to go through that.”
While Aigbe’s case was a bloody one based on the actress claims of domestic violence by her husband and some bloodied pictures which surfaced online, another Nollywood celebrity who chose to use social media as a tool to promote their marital problems instead of promoting their career was Prince Eke and his singer turned actress estranged wife, Muma Gee.
Late last year, the celebrity couple decided to use their social media handles to throw jabs at each other with the actor announcing to the world that his wife was unfaithful to him and was fond of visiting night clubs. He posted on his Instagram page, “This is not a cheap publicity, I am not washing my dirty linen in the public, neither do I want to invoke pity. How nice is it for a woman to abandon her three months old baby for four weeks and ran off to Abuja with God knows who and is being seen in Abuja at public joints and night clubs with different men.”
Ever since the post surfaced online, the union which produced three children seemed to have collapsed.
Also the entertainment industry and observers would not forget in a hurry the post by Tee-billz, who is married to pop sensation, Tiwa Savage.
In his post which showed the wrong side of the limelight to his singer wife, the young man claimed that his wife was unfaithful and she had slept with several big shots in the Nigerian music scene. One of the jaw dropping posts read, “Within what period of time did you fuck Jazzy and Dr Sid. And I didn’t care because of the love I have for you. I looked at it that we all have a past even when at this same fucking time you were fucking with 2face.”
Even though the post has since been deleted from his Instagram account and normalcy seems to have been restored to the family, it is very easy to access all his posts and rants from that period.
The trend is not peculiar to the aforementioned artistes as the list goes on. However, while commenting on this trend, some psychologists told Saturday Beats that although most of these posts may not be up to a thousand words, their impact is probably everlasting and most times takes a harmful toll on the children of these celebrities.
Professor Esther Akinsola of the University of Lagos, who is a specialist in developmental and clinical psychology, gave her two cents on the matter.
She said, “It depends on the dirt that they are washing in the public. Sadly, their parents are not mindful of their actions and they don’t think of their children before doing things like that.
“Whatever they put on the social media would definitely have an impact on the way people around these children see them.
“Even for parents who do not post their marital crisis on the social media but are separated, they are still sometimes stigmatised in some circles let alone parents that have told the whole world about their problems.
“The problem is that most parents are not aware that such an action would definitely have a negative impact on their children. Such an act can lead to depression but it may not be clinical depression. It would be a normal depression especially when they are being ridiculed by peers.
“They would just feel dejected and unhappy but after some time, they would get out of it. It would make them feel sad and it could also generate anxious insecurity in the children.
“It would definitely have some emotional impact on the children and may affect their self-esteem, self-worth and self-confidence. However, it also depends on how long such an act goes on for it to have that kind of impact.”
For Dr. Kehinde Ayenibiowo, a developmental, cognitive, counselling and environmental psychologist, the children of these stars could be exposed to shame.
She said, “Usually children pride themselves with who their parents are and it can be quite depressing for someone especially if you have been boasting about your parents, then you find information about them online that is negative, it can be depressing.
“It can affect them emotionally and they could get depressed. It could be the subject of ridicule by their peers and it can be depressing for any child.
“They could also have low self-esteem affecting how they value themselves. Sometimes we pride ourselves from our background and who our parents are.
“When such parents are ridiculing themselves, it could affect the children’s view of the world because trust has been betrayed in the home. It would be difficult for the children to trust.
“These same children may find it difficult to concentrate in school because they are focused on what is happening at home or what is being said about them and their family on the social media space. It affects them educationally. The sense of shame could also come in play too because some of the words these parents use on themselves on social media are shameful words and other people may use that against the child.”
Speaking more on a way to curb this rising trend, the Head of Psychology Department, University of Lagos, Professor Ibinabo Agiobu-Kemmer, a child psychologist, said, “We are living in the digital information age where the children themselves know what is going on on the internet than what is happening with their parents.
“The internet has become their extended family. That is not where it started from because values have been eroded. We don’t need to be an expert to know that it would upset the children emotionally because they idolise their parents especially if the children are adolescents.
“They idolise their parents and that is why you would notice that they brag about them and they also look up to their parents as role models. Talking about the problems, we also have to find a solution.
“Basically we need to talk to ourselves and those parents because it is very likely that they do not know the impact of their action on those children because the world is now a global village.
“Some of those celebrities are so self-centred that they don’t think beyond themselves but they should please give their children a chance because it is affecting these children. It is not just about giving them money or sending them abroad. The children are always on social media, it is their lives and some of them do not even know their cousins.”