Is social media making us anti-social? The answer is complicated. Yes, and no.
I, for one, am guilty of sitting at a table in a public place, classroom or even living room, scouring through hours of tweets and social media posts trying to digest everything I missed in the last 30 seconds of real life. It’s a nervous tick. It’s so annoying that my friends, my siblings and even my parents will take my smart phone out of my hand to get my attention.
Today the media is not what it used to be. Communication in the past was simple and meaningful. Before the Internet there were limited sources of information we had to rely on. The culture was then adapting to a limited mass media market, as was the limitation imposed on our intellect.
However, the reality today is entirely different. The last few years of the Internet have exploded into quite an innovative way of mass socialization amongst users with sites like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn; you name it, these social networking sites have become minute by minute communication necessities for almost all Ugandans and millions of people with each platform fighting to win the biggest audience.
Like most things, technology can have both a good and bad effect. Let’s look at the good. This fantastic technology is a major boon to help us keep in contact with our loved ones and to market ourselves (for the marketeers and professionals). This technology is very important especially for people who have left the country in search of work to help them keep in touch with home and companies like MTN and NSSF keeping in touch with their customers.
People’s huge love of social media cannot be denied. The speed with which it has wormed its way into our daily lives is astounding. And there is absolutely no doubt that social media is here to stay. Mobile phone, computer and Internet technology has revolutionized the way we process information and do business too. More people today rely on information from the Internet and their phones.
However in my opinion, there is a negative side of technology. We are increasingly becoming isolated from each other because of a false sense of connection. E-mails, mobile phones and social media are valuable methods of communicating information. But do we not need to meet with people face to face so that we can truly connect?
In simple terms, the downside comes when we use the technology as a substitute for real one-to-one human conversation.
You are likely to have seen it yourself at a party, dinners, awards or wedding, a number of Ugandans will be stuck to the screens of their phones, interacting with someone not in the room. They are being social but just not with the people they are with. The danger here is that we start losing touch with the people in our lives because we simply do not get off the phone and give the other person our time and attention.
How many times have you gone to dinner with a group of friends and you have all sat at the table looking at your phones?
“Wow! Look what Angie posted on Instagram.” “My selfie has 35 likes!”
You literally have real people that you presumably care about in front if you, yet you’re more consumed about how many likes you got on Facebook or retweets on Twitter than making memories right in front of you.
The social media explosion on the Internet is setting new rules for all parts of the society. Every day someone joins a social network in hopes to connect with another user but it is drawing concerns amongst many that all that precious screen-time is actually diminishing the time we spend communicating face-to-face. Social networking has, obviously, seen the largest increase in the past five years of any online activity at least in Uganda. Social networking has revolutionized the way we interact with the Internet and with other users.
The question then is: Is technology making us more sociable or more antisocial? Does it divide or unite modern people? What attracts you to social media? What worries you about it? How are you using it?
There is no denying that as this online social networking phenomenon exploded into our unassuming lives close to a decade ago bringing a new-found level of connectivity, it simultaneously created a pretty bloody anti-social society. One that keeps looking down into its palms.
Some people think they are never alone when they have got a phone or laptop etc with them as they can talk to anyone in any corner of the world whenever they want. However this is not allowing people to gain any social skill. Which nowadays is quite important as many Organizations prefer people with interactive skills and who can influence people to get things done.
One thing has always struck us about Social Media at work or home. The more you update your Facebook profile or tweet your bowel movements, the less ‘Sociable’ you become in the real world, and the art of conversation disappears.
I understand social media is the perfect tool for connecting with others instantly given the constraints and restraints of time. Trust me, I know what it’s like as I’m someone who uses it every day to connect and interact with my friends, and my perspectives and concerns on social media have not changed. One of my close friends is studying at Strathmore University in Nairobi, Kenya and Viber, Twitter, and generally instant message – they all help in keeping us closer. Same goes to my ICT Law and Policy lecturer at UCU Law School whose mode of coursework and discussions are exclusively done via Skype when it permits bringing also the lecture-student relationship closer, entertaining and engaging.
If you feel you’re not being social enough, get off the computer and turn off your phone. It’s the simplest thing to do and though it may be hard, there’s so much of a life out there for you to see and experience! Just like you’d focus on your health and diet, it’s important to keep everything you do in moderation and the focus should be on “real” communication.
Wouldn’t you rather experience life than speak about it a tweet? It’s vital and healthy to focus on how to be social and not how to do social. The future of social networking looks very promising but still has to deal with the social concerns associated with it especially in the African perspective where family and social connections are considered as the major bond of relationships. Social media has tricked us into thinking we have to be in the moment every waking second of the day. It’s not true. Live your life, don’t tweet your life.
As the charming Ferris Bueller puts it, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
So the question remains, Is social media making us anti-social? Answer yourself.