It’s that time of the year again, and Big Brother Naija is back on the airwaves. Now, the cast is entering the villa. By Monday, lines would have been drawn on the sand, new hashtags that will dominate the news cycle and the Twitter trend table would have begun to emerge.
Feminists, sugar babies, alpha males, pick-mes, tech bros and just about every personality on social media would have come out of their echo chambers, reunited in defence of their favourite housemates on the show.
For the next 90 days, all MultiChoice portfolio of entertainment products, GOTV, DSTV, Showmax, and others will air the show live.
This year the tension will be worse, no doubt. The creators of the hit round-the-clock reality show have invited stars from previous seasons for a rematch of regular Saturday must-watch shindigs, tasks, branded pyjamas and branded tracksuits, and of course, the chance to take home a cash price of 120 million naira for an edition that it’s calling Big Brother Naija: All-Stars.
But all those that will take to social media to fangirl over housemates or bombard their timelines with a series of rebukes of another must realise that they might need to find a new venue for that type of engagement. The scales on Twitter have been uneven, favouring those with the means to subscribe to Twitter Blue.
For the past few years since Big Brother Naija has become the show of this generation, Twitter has taken up the role of a kind of mood board, a barometer for what fans think of the show, with comments on Twitter with Big Brother Naija or housemate names careening live on the chyron 24 hours, including at midnight when the housemates are asleep.
Twitter is also where people hold camps to support their housemates. It’s the place where people find their tribe before moving things to a group in the DMs or on WhatsApp, from which they band together to, say, buy their fave expensive cars and wristwatches or take to the streets canvassing for support for said housemates.
A few weeks ago, Musk rolled out a new policy that drastically reduces the number of tweets viewers can see daily on the platform. This will translate to tweeps looking to doomscroll for hot takes, or clips from the show could now be restricted from that experience.
Twitter has also completely blocked tweeps’ ability to start new conversations in the DMs with users that don’t follow them back. Twitter has restricted messages to 500 per day for other users that do follow them.
This has changed the games for the endless social media engagement that Big Brother Naija enjoys on Twitter.
While people have been leaving the social media platform in drove, protesting these new policies, it remains joined to the success of Big Brother Naija at the hip.
But it can also lead to the success of Twitter’s infamous premium version, Twitter Blue, which gives more leeway to the restricted functions that Musk has rolled out. But even that remains a long shot.
Depending on how pressing or how deep Big Brother Naija: All-Stars gets, loyal fans could sign up for Musk’s Twitter Blue for 8 dollars per month. But the rising dollar cost against the naira, now at 860 Naira per dollar, presents a new hurdle for tweeps who would have otherwise joined Twitter Blue.
With all these benefits, coupled with the fact that the algorithms favour tweets from Twitter Blue holders and stand a higher chance of being seen by more people on the platform, it could be extra difficult to gauge where the conversation really is for many Nigerians.
But it could also become easier to influence the conversation, especially as tweeps continue to choke on groupthink and hearsay. On Twitter, many are not looking for context or to see the clips themselves before concluding who the villain will be.
With Twitter Blue users getting more of the limelight, they will most likely become the de facto barometer of culture during these three long months that the show will run for. This is where the danger lies.
So far, no housemate has experienced direct physical damage that has been shared publicly because of the pressures of the show. But in the UK, where Love Island, the equivalent to Big Brother Naija, has seen housemates and a host commit suicide, it will be wise for the social media companies and the showrunners to give all sides of the debate and drags a fair hearing.
On Twitter, with the West African offices gutted, it seems that the fight for fair visibility of tweets is totally lost. How the show’s producers will manipulate the chyron to show comments from multiple perspectives remains their problem. What is clear as we enter this intense season is that it might be the thing that will break the camel’s back.
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