Some time back, one of my peers compared a day without social media to suffering in a desert! He went on to say that he would rather spend a whole day just on social media than eating anything. He’s not alone b’se this generation relies a lot on social media just like we rely on oxygen! It’s a worrying trend that today’s life is controlled by social media. Every now and then, we’re exposing our personality to the public, taking countless selfies, updating that ‘now in the café, now on the bus, now eating this or that, now in a lavatory, now in class, now watching Tv, feeling bored, posting photos or videos of our kids, homes, valuables, etc. This, we do without considering that we’re risking our own lives!
You may wonder why there’s so much gossip or why are people lazier than before? Well, it’s all got to do with the prevailing social media craze! Am not assuming that social media is bad, in fact, me, and you became friends from social media, you also found this story via the same medium! Not only that but there are people whose lives have incredibly been changed by social media! Strangers meeting their love mates, others winning prizes, and for them, life has significantly improved b’se of social media but it’s unfortunate that we aren’t seriously evaluating the risks involved!
My story isn’t unique b’se probably you’ve gone through a similar scenario like you’re about to read! It’s almost a decade since I created my first social media account! By then, access to the internet was a privilege for the elites (often expatriates and scholars) b’se it wasn’t the society’s craze thing like we’re witnessing it today. I was in high school when I asked my classmate William to teach me how to ‘make friends from abroad’, so after the classes, I followed him to a nearby internet café.
After some minutes of instruction, I was a pro! My desire to connect with the virtual netizens around the world more than tripled, and it became a rule that every Saturday morning I would pretend to be leaving for the ‘special weekend classes’ but instead spent that time surfing the internet. The bucks that Mom gave me as ‘study fees’ I ended up using it to buy more internet time. To me, the internet, particularly social media, became the ‘best friend’ that I desperately needed to repetitively check on. This is how I lost interest in having physical bonds as my excitement with virtual networks kept growing b’se I would even lock myself in my bedroom for several hours just on social media.
As I got familiar with the net, I signed up to several ‘friend-connection’ sites to try and find as many friends as I could in the virtual world. This was the only way to almost ‘travel’ the world and my goal was to have a friend from every country, to learn about their lifestyles and also share mine. But such a dream would later seem to be practically inconceivable! I first tried Interpals, hi5, MySpace, and Friendster from which I made over 500 friends and very few of them are still my long-time buddies.
Backed by my unwavering curiosity, social media was the only way to force myself out of the ‘local bubble’. I wasn’t alone b’se this was a mass revolution; many young people were gaining a stronghold on social media and I had to join in the frenzy. Whenever I went to a café, I could find young people filling up all the spaces and I had to wait several hours for my turn, still, the data speeds were awfully slow! Oh, then I longed to own an internet device!
Soon after I got my own smartphone, my internet craze then took a serious bite so deep that it became a ‘necessary evil’ (an addiction). I never imagined that it would be very hard to spend a day without accessing the internet. In fact, at one time I had more than 3000 friends and followers whom I had to constantly check, but thank goodness, I later realized that it’s ain’t about quantity but the quality and I felt that these numbers never portrayed any sense of a true personal friendship.
It wasn’t only myself suffering from the unprecedented social media craze but even those I interacted with as well! My teachers will never forgive me for the headaches I caused to them during classes. Let me admit it, while they were instructing, I would bend my head to check on social media and I kept chatting throughout the lectures! At times, I would resolve to ‘put down’ my phone and try concentrating for at least half-an-hour, but waah, I just found myself picking up the phone after less than a minute! It was an ugly battle against self! But still, at the end, I would pass all my exams with flying colors.
At home, it was even worse, things were getting out of control and my relatives always found a hard time trying to keep me off my smartphone, especially my Grandma who always complained: “Naye Eric, lumu ndikujjako essimu eyo, era toliddamu kugiraba!” (Translation: “Eric I’ll seize that phone and you’ll never see it again”). She repeatedly expressed concerns that I could lose my eyesight due to the prolonged gazing at the bright screen, I just ignored her. From time to time, she would hide my phone and I would spend hours looking for it, and whenever I found it, I would run off as far as I could to continue my social media affection uninterrupted!
In the meantime, I noticed how I became lazier and reluctant to do house duties! I always slept very late, around 2-3am after dozing off and whenever I woke up, it was my smartphone that I always first paid attention to! It didn’t matter the time of the day, or what I was doing, my smartphone was always in my hands. I never waited for notifications, b’se I was constantly opening my accounts to check what’s going on with my buddies! If none of them was online, then I would update my status every hour to bring them to my attention! Can you imagine that I would also upload hundreds of photos every week? Actually, most of them didn’t make any sense and for now, I deleted them.
My troubles with social media weren’t only confined to my family, soon this gross habit spread onto the streets! Now, this was getting out of hand b’se I was risking myself to every kind of road trouble! Concerned people would yell at me while others just shook heads in utter incredulity as they saw this ‘walking zombie’ who never minded his steps ahead! To me, it was always ‘social media on the go’, ISP’s were dishing out alluring data bonanzas to keep me glued onto social media, such as ‘Free Facebook and Twitter for 24hrs!’
Things became worse when I fell into a roadside manhole at dusk, the other day I stumbled upon raised pavers and almost fell forward, I also bumped into other pedestrians and then into roadside hawkers’ merchandise. Sometimes I would plead to use the bus’s onboard Wi-Fi and then later forget to alight at my destination after realizing that I am miles away past home. Oh, this was becoming so ridiculous!
Soon I stopped minding a lot of chatting and checking friends’ status updates. So, my curiosity turned towards other spheres. I needed to keep myself abreast of what’s happening around the world. Did you ever wonder why people are less interested in buying newspapers, listening to the radio or watching Tv? I was once a news fanatic and I never missed peeping thru the morning dailies or tuning into the hourly Tv/radio news bulletin. But look, things changed b’se we’re getting all the breaking news alerts right there on social media even before the major news outlets know the story! Anyone with a smartphone and an internet connection is implicitly a citizen journalist! From raw videos, photos, and first witness accounts of what’s happening miles away to keep us well informed. Who even needs to watch a Tv when YouTube, Vimeo and Facebook’s ‘live video streaming’ are within our grasp?
Currently, I maintain a regular presence on some of the major social media platforms and these include Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, SnapChat, Interpals, Skype, WhatsApp, and many others. Now just imagine how I have to check each of them and how much time I spend doing just this! There’s no way I could have imagined my life without relating to the social media craze!
It hasn’t all been negative with my internet craze b’se there are a lot of interesting and upbuilding stuff I can do on my social media. For example, I am a virtual student and when I need scholarly resources, I go to Academia.edu, for updated music I go to Last.fm, I search LinkedIn for the latest job offers, I use Flickr for high-quality images, Exploroo to plan my travel destinations and I subscribe to WordPress for regular blogging.
In the end, it’s down to each one of us as to what we love doing on social media. It could be getting in touch with loved ones, seeking emotional relief, promoting brand awareness, finding love partners on dating sites, etc. As for me, I always pray that I find time for more meaningful things in my life such as education, family, health, real friends and caring for the environment.