Everyone in this audience is on a social networking platform, be it Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, among others. Have we ever thought about the impacts these networking platforms have had on our interactions with other human beings? I will begin with a small experience I had over the weekend. I attended my high school reunion and as is common practise it was held in a vibrant restaurant in town. As we conversed and reminded ourselves of the experiences, we shared while in high school I couldnt help but notice not once but as the night wore on more and more individuals were stuck to their phones rather than paying attention to their former mates. This forms the basis of my presentation.
In the early 90s to the turn of the millennium, we had very few social networking platforms. The very first social networking platforms could be traced to the Bulletin Board Systems which were online meeting venues that produced chunks of code allowing users communicate over a central system allowing them to download content and post messages to other users. These were rigid systems and when the internet revolution kicked in better platforms came into place.
The first social networking platform was LinkedIn launched in December 2002, followed by Myspace in 2003 and then the real game changer Facebook launched in February 2004. Facebook is the most popular site behind Google with over 1 billion active users. This, in essence, means that increasingly individuals are using social networking platforms to interact, carry out business among other things. Social networking platforms have brought with them the ease of communication, essentially making the world a digital village. This allows various users to interact and exchange information allowing for various advances in several fields. These up sides also have their downturns.
A huge proportion of the users on these platforms are between the ages of 16-35. These are the teen and youth population. Given that most platforms allow for instant messaging and the availability of reliable internet connectivity, people would need to be constantly updated. Couple this with the advent of smartphones and you have the perfect mix for a generation hooked onto social media. I am not condemning social media, but the rate at which teenagers are turning into zombies is alarming! People are constantly pouring over their phones to their social network accounts to update themselves on what is trending (case of Twitter). A group of 5 teenagers will not be able to hold a thirty-minute conversation without one or all of them pulling out their phones to update or check on their social media. The need to be accepted by their online peers has allowed for the instances of cyber bullying to go up. Cyber bullying impacts negatively on the social esteem of an individual.
While social media platforms have made it easy to communicate and interact with fellow humans, they have significantly watered down the quality of interpersonal communications. To address this would require individual effort. It is a societal problem and collectively it can be addressed. Responsible behaviour should be encouraged and discipline should be exercised when it comes to the use of social media when in the company of other persons. This would go a long way in increasing the quality of life rather than documenting life as is currently the practise.
Dijck, J. v. (2013). The Culture of Connectivity: A Critical History of Social Media. New York: Oxford University Press.
Standage, T. ( 2013). Writing on the Wall: Social Media - The First 2,000 Years. London: A&C Black.
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