SOCIAL MEDIA: A TROJAN HORSE?
‘Use, do not abuse, neither abstinence nor excess ever renders man happy’
Taking a stroll on the streets of Ibadan, I could not but see the various individuals, most especially youths, whose eyes are glued to the screens of their handsets. Some are seen smiling, some giggling and others knitting their brows. A person standing a few inches from them would in fact find it difficult to fathom the chain of thoughts running through their youthful minds; because they are in a totally distinct world, a world they have created for themselves, a world of bonding and disbanding, a world of freedom and facades. Certain people regard it as the world library, some call it the essential tool of globalization, others say it is the most prominent feature of the 21st century; social media is fast becoming or has become an integral part of human existence.
The social media has been defined by Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia as the means of interaction among people in which they create, share and exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks.
The social media is fast spreading its appendages; it is proliferating every single day. This is evident in the facts that Facebook has more than 1.06 billion monthly active users world-wide, 5.3 million in Nigeria, Google reached a billion unique visitors worldwide as at May, 2011. Twitter has about 500 million total users. Very recently, YouTube has been reported to reach a whopping one billion monthly users. And these numbers are not in any way stagnant, they are increasing by the hour.
Hence, this is to suggest that whatever transpires on these media ought to be the concern of each and every one of us because even if we do not belong to any, which is of course nigh-impossible, a colossal percentage of human population is already trapped in its walls, and we will inevitably relate with these people.
The social media with its many benefits also has its disadvantages, or do they not say that ‘all must have a disadvantage that has an advantage?’ and ‘the greater the use, the worse the abuse.’ Today, the essence of the creation of social media has given way to a pervasive perversion. The media which were meant to facilitate unity, growth and progress have given way to the direct opposite. The media were created to facilitate unity but instead they seem to trigger disunity. They were created to inform people, rather they are misinforming them. They were created to entertain us, what we see is that we are in the process of getting entertained, getting tainted.
Matter-of-factly, all these irregularities are ensuing because, today, rather than use the social media, we are abusing it. We do not share the information that will be beneficial to others; neither do we seek information that will benefit us. The inexorable corollaries of this are myriad, and they have come in different forms.
One of such corollaries is time-wastage. People are so addicted to the various social media that we have, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Nairaland, Eskimi, and so on, to the extent that everywhere they go, be it the workplace, lecture hall or restroom, they are never offline. In fact, we have those who have turned social networking into a ritual. The very first and last thing they do every day is chat. The situation even became worse when Research in motion limited, commonly known as RIM introduced the first blackberry phone in 1999. Blackberry which now has up to 80 million subscribers world-wide, was nicknamed ‘Crackberry’ which alludes to its excessive use by its owners and is a reference to the addictiveness of crack cocaine. It is established that an average Facebook uses nothing less than 8 hours on the network per year, but we all know that in Nigeria, people spend that same number of hours on the site per day. It is equally established, that most 2go users devote between 5 and 10 hours on the messenger every single day, in the hope that they will one day be crowned masters in the art of gossiping. Moving on to one of Nigeria’s most celebrated social networks which now has more than a million users: Nairaland. One remarkable feature of the site is that they record the aggregate number of hours a member spends there. I discovered, to my amazement, that we have an inestimable number of members on Nairaland who have spent up to a month on the site. Frosbel has spent 3 months and a day there, Maclatunji has spent 4 months and 10 days while Afam4eva has spent 6 months and 27 days. We all know what tangible things could achieved in a much shorter span of time.
The consequence of this immense amount of time wasted on social media every day is that it leads to lack of productivity and a drastic fall in National growth rate. Many idle politicians and celebrities have turned the social media into their personal library and a platform to express themselves unthinkingly and ludicrously. Notable examples include Peter Odemwingie, who turned twitter into his military base from which he shoots indiscriminately at his foes. He fought his club, country, coach, NFA and a complete sports editor all using twitter. We also have Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, who people believe only uses his Facebook page to criticise the ruling political party.
Another corollary of the abuse of social media is the simplification of crime. At this juncture, I would like us to cast our minds back to the murder of Miss Cynthia Osokogu, which occurred in July, 2012. The disheartening death could have been averted if only she used the Facebook more cautiously. People now seem to trust their Facebook pals more than their parents and siblings at home. They disclose information, which they can never tell their psychiatrist; to a person they have never met.
They fail to realise that Facebook is filled with real people, not just accounts and that it is now the workshop of scammers, rapists and serial murderers.
And again, an abuse of social media could and has also led to a profound corruption of morals. Half of the contents on Facebook are illicit. Even if you do not subscribe to them, we find that Facebook now notifies us if any of our friends like or comment on a pornographic image. Dating sites now everywhere; kids even tell lies concerning their age just to subscribe to them. It is expected and statistically proven that 12 percent of all sites are porn, 35 percent of all downloads are porn, kids first see porn online, on average, at age 11 and 20 percent of men watch porn at work. So when next you meet an internet addict, inquire about his online activities.
Aside from these, social media abuse similarly leads to a depreciating knowledge of Queen’s English. Many Nigerians now prefer to substitute the number 4 for ‘for’, letter ‘k’ for ‘okay’, ‘brb’ for ‘be right back’ among others, to the extent that it has permeated our formal usage.
Furthermore, this same social malady has been proven to cause health and psychological hazards. It causes, or fastens the rate at which diseases such stroke, blood pressure, cold, dementia and other cognitive problems occur. It also has psychological impacts like addiction, distress, anxiety, boredom and loneliness.
Finally, through the social media, rumours and denigrating news now spread like wildfire. Quintessential examples include the ‘acid rain’, ‘beans poisoned by Boko-haram’, ‘phone-call that causes instant death’, ‘do not wear red because Pastor Adeboye said so’, and most recently, the ‘my oga at the top’ saga. The unnecessary panic and foofaraw caused by these news is accelerated with the activities of idle hands who have found work online. No wonder countries like China, Syria and out rightly banned Facebook. China even went to the extent also proscribing YouTube and Twitter.
Ad summum, the compendium of all my contention is that we should never risk social dysphoria by abusing the social media, if we truly desire to acquire a sense of euphoria and a state of utopia. The social media is actually valuable and blameless; it is we, the users that made it obnoxious and counter-productive. Hence, one of the things that will determine how well the future generations will live is how well we use the social media.