By George Ojema
Millions of people around the globe are celebrating Social Media day today. That means your twitter feed will be flooded with hashtags of the same, or to be more accurate an abbreviation of the same since one can only say so much in 140 characters. I shake my head, SMH, at the idea that I cannot express myself fully unless I can think out a whole sentence then pick out the most important letters in it and send them into the incalculable expanse of the internet so they can be arranged in order, re-expanded into the original thought and then interpreted (or misinterpreted) before an answer is calculated and sent back to me.
However, all tedious communicative arithmetic (or TCA) aside, let’s try and examine how really social social media has made us. And don’t shrug me off as a grumpy person still trying to figure out what Instagram is for. I believe in eating food, not giving it a photo studio presentation for strangers in Australia.
Some people living in the world today have at least two thirds of their lives documented on social media sites. They are engaged in on-line dating, update their Facebook statuses (or is it stati, think about it) at thirty to twenty minute intervals, tweet about an activity they are doing every two minutes, take photos of their dates, nieces, nephews, parents, children, pets and possessions every day and upload them to snapchat and of course take photos of their meals for Instagram. This might appear to be socially correct behavior but there are consequences you will never be warned about.
First and foremost, you have no control over what happens with the information you have put on the internet. A privacy setting on your Facebook account doesn’t stop someone on your ‘secure’ list of friends from sharing that information with the world. Feeling ‘safe’ about that nude picture you took? And don’t get me started on online stalkers. If you keep telling us where you eat lunch every Monday along with a photo of said lunch, how long before we poison you with that chicken salad?
Cyber bullying has also gone hand in hand with our more social world. With no real way to measure the scope of the internet there is no way to say how big the problem is and how many are affected. However, one fact becomes clear. Because of social media and lose control over what is shared and with whom; someone will fall into depression by the end of today, someone will lose their job by the end of today, someone will attempt suicide by the end of today. Unfortunately, someone will die from one of these suicide attempts. A contributing factor in all these cases will be either cyber bullying, cyber stalking or unrelenting cyber trolls.
Granted these are not the aims of social media but social media platforms afford us the chance to pass blame and refuse to accept responsibility for bad actions.
Social media behavior has also crept in and with it many passive evils. At its heart social media is intended to be a media for sharing information and getting things moving. The Arab Spring that left a bad taste in many Arab nations was heavily reliant on social media platforms to organize civil disobedience, regroup and pass messages of hope and defiance. This achieved change though the outcome of the spring is still under debate for some countries. Was it good? Were they better before the uprisings? See Libya for answers.
But the change some social media platforms would like to bring about is lost on those who receive the messages. A heartfelt appeal to send medical relief is met with more likes on Facebook than actual donations. More Hashtags with catchy phrases are sent across the world that volunteers to the affected area. Some people retweet without even understanding what they have retweeted! Social? Deathly stupid more like it.
We’ve gone from people who would stop a fight to people who take photos and post them on our social media pages. A woman is stripped in the streets and instead of fending off the attackers we take out our phones and record it.
#MyDressMyChoice, ring a bell?
A bus turns a corner too quickly and rolls over. Several people are trapped in the wreck. Do we rush in and get them out? No, take photos, upload on twitter. #DangerousMatatus #12injured…sorry13now
Social media has given us the silent permission to watch people die while we record it, photograph it, hash tag it and send it to the rest of the world to see. And they have taken the silent consent to allow us to be social with them while the living, breathing human next to us dies on the tarmac.
Has social media helped bring us together? Are we actually more social now than we were before MySpace and Yahoo?
Which have you done more of today, tweeted or smiled at someone seated next to you? Taken a photo of your food for Instagram or thanked the waiter who served you? Called a friend or updated your status?
As you hashtag this hollow celebration, think about how you can actually use your social media platform to be more social, bring some change somewhere and be useful to someone.
Happy Social Media Day or HSMD (which sounds like some deadly virus or the other)