DEBATE: Does social media affect people's lives?

When Mark Zuckerberg and his friends sat in their dorm at Harvard University and came up with Facebook, I don’t think that they had any idea how big their innovation would be and what an addiction it would be to millions.

Absolutely. It has taken over our lives

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When Mark Zuckerberg and his friends sat in their dorm at Harvard University and came up with Facebook, I don’t think that they had any idea how big their innovation would be and what an addiction it would be to millions.

The same goes for the founders of Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, among many others.

Then there is the one who discovered a Smartphone. Which brings me to today’s question on whether social media is affecting our lives. Of course it is, and unfortunately not in a very good way.

Do you remember what your life was like before a Smartphone? When is the last time you actually sat down with your family or friends and decided to have a proper genuine conversation without the itch to check your phone sucking you in? Do you remember the last time you were really into something without stopping for a minute or ten to check your phone? Do you remember how much attention you paid when someone was speaking?

Well, it’s not uncommon to hear people say that social media made communication easier, and there is some truth in that but what quality of communication are we talking about?

Social media has made people drift apart because we have let social networking forums come in between us and our families and friends. People hardly have time to spend with each other anymore. Turn left or right and everywhere you look, people are on their phones or devices taking photos or chatting.

It is hard to have a conversation with someone without them glancing at their phone every ten seconds like they are expecting a message or call from God himself. We have and we continue to replace in-person interactions with social media connections, and this is absurd.

There is the issue of people who seem unable to make decisions without asking for opinions from strangers.

Unfortunately, these same people get swayed by other people’s opinions easily today and often have to rethink their own views and ideas on topics.

Our children will never know the joy of playing in the rain, running after a soccer ball, playing hide and seek, because these days, all the games that they play are on a smart phone. Some parents are comfortable buying their children gadgets like computers and Smart phones even before they are 10.

Social media has robbed us of each other’s time and attention and along the way, it is seriously contributing to the degeneration of our society because if we cannot talk to each other, what is next?

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

The real problem is the users

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Does anyone recall a period when people visited each other, sent invitation cards (real cards not internet “save the date” crap), when everyone knew how much a stamp cost and where the post office was located and when literally all your friends knew where you stayed and your family? Well, we’ve now traded even the 20 telephone calls we used to receive before social media and felt exhausted for other connection points.

The whole point of social media was to connect with new people, build real not virtual relationships and make a big world smaller, among other things. However, as it turns out, we instead use Linkedin for people we know, Facebook is for people we used to know and Twitter is for people we want to know, all in the name of reinventing fun.

So, what would be the main point of trying to live the “old, boring life” of the 50’s. The concept of faking a “perfect” life on social media has since taken centre stage in our lives. And yet, no matter how hard we try, no matter how much we lament about the inaccuracy of our online selves, the edited content just keeps on coming.

The truth is we all wish our online selves were our authentic selves but we have since failed to realise that that can’t happen and we become comfortable with ourselves. Someone will have a page on almost every social media platform, Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Google +, Skype, Instagram, Snap Chat and many others. Does having all these accounts make us better people?

I was shocked and surprised when I learnt that a friend I knew on Facebook had committed suicide. We chatted often online and I considered him a friend but I didn’t know he was suffering from depression. Yet he came off as a kind, interesting and generous person. The reality is, we hardly know anyone.

What dawned on me that day is that I wasn’t his friend, and neither were his over 5000 followers on Twitter because his death came as a surprise. I later learnt that he had previously attempted suicide but only discussed it with his inner circle. However, if anyone had asked me that morning, I would have said he’s my friend.

We have turned to social media for comfort and praise forgetting that we are giving ourselves a false sense of intimacy and closeness that hardly exists. We do it for the “likes” and “comments” but not for the real truth.

Whereas I appreciate that social media has brought friends into my life, I can’t compare them to my pre-social media friends, most of whom I’ve known for over 20 years, because I hardly know anything about my social media friends.

So, do we actually want to spend our time building large networks of superficial relations, potentially at the cost of deepening a few cherished friendships upon which we can truly rely? We need to re-connect with friends or family and put our energy into building real, face-to-face relationships. And always remember that what you see online is not a standard by which you should grade your life.

dean.karemera@newtimes.co.rw

 

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