The internet never forgets [Photo: Courtesy]

I must have been six, when the lady who was taking care of us as mum went about looking for bread and butter came to the outdoor makeshift kitchen to find me caressing a snake that was warming itself beneath the fire stone.

We lived in the rocky outcrop facing the Luo side of Kapisul-Kabondo where snakes were part of the environment that enriched the unusually dry part of Kisii that I happen to come from. She screamed her lungs out, scaring the living daylights out of me, before hitting the snake to a pulp. Her screams instilled the fear of God in me at the sight of anything that slithers to date.

I used to be a brave young man who never walked away from a fight. Then my mother told me of nightrunners who can render you dumb and make you eat human flesh. Since then, I have been a pussyfooter; I put the cow in cowardice. A few years ago, I lived in Central Africa, a land so virgin, it is not uncommon to bump into snakes. Big or small, dangerous or harmless, the people there live with them, unafraid.

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The year I spent there, I lived in mortal fear that one might slip into my bed and bite me, sending me to an early grave. Worse, the place was full of desert scorpions, small and brown as the sand. That small scorpion was capable of inflicting such a paralysing pain. Luckily, their poison was not fatal, but the hospitals were so poorly-equipped and stocked, all they did was inject you with a painkiller on the spot the scorpion bit. So, you can imagine if the scorpion went all the way up...

I was dead terrified of these animals. But given the power of screenshots to wreck relationships, marriages, friendships and families, I am no longer as afraid of snakes, scorpions or even sharks. In 2016, a young man with so much to live for unnecessarily lost his job after scandalous screenshots of a conversation with his best friend leaked and went viral. His side of the story was obviously embellished in the usual boyish macho bravado.

Most people, however, did notice that he was a disturbed kid, who needed more sympathy and understanding than condemnation. He needed prayers and psychiatric help. He seemed to be holding a very dim view of women and people in general. His descriptions of his sexual escapades were vivid and potentially damaging.

We have seen other leaked screenshots, nudes, audios and sex tapes. But screenshots have become the devil lately. They offer us a rare insight into what the human mind is capable of. We have had insights into the mind of a ‘brother’ who wanted to take a woman to cloud nine. There have been others, some juicy, some not so. When a city tycoon was recently shot dead, some women leaked the chats they had with him, confirming that he was a member of Team Mafisi.

It got me thinking about my indiscretions when harmlessly flirting online. If some of these chats leaked, I could lose a job, a spouse and a dozen friends. Not that I am the gossipy type, or have done some extremely crude stuff, but I will be too ashamed to even walk with my head up.

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I have now resolved to be more mature and more objective in my chats, lest my presidential ambitions are cut short in future, just when I am leading in the polls by 67 per cent. You never know when a malicious ex may decide to end your career. Friends, the internet never forgets. Be discreet. Women, go slow on those nudes. The only thing that can save us is to always do the right thing and err on the side of caution.