In commuter omnibuses, there is less and less talk among passengers nowadays. The nation, in its bid to be socially connected through the Internet, is actually becoming introverted.
Report by Cecilia Kamuputa
The “conversation” of choice seems to take place on a mobile phone or any such new technology gadget as people take to their earphones to listen to music or better still chat endlessly on Facebook, Twitter or other social networks, oblivious of the people sitting around them.
They ARE being social, and are actually communicating, but to people who are not in that omnibus but are hanging somewhere in the virtual sphere.
Even though social media presents a platform for people to instantly get in touch and share their life experiences, there are emerging concerns that these platforms are actually making people anti-social as less time is being dedicated for face-to –face interactions.
Wellington Gadzikwa, a Mass Communication lecturer at Harare Polytechnic said these social media platforms were eating into most young people’s valuable time that could have been used in other productive ventures.
“Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp and all these other digital platforms give these young people a false sense of satisfaction and make them feel like they are at par with the whole world yet they are not. Precious time they could have used to get better education and even vote is spent on trivial issues on social media platforms.”
Gadzikwa said those not on any social media platform would feel like they are back ward and left out.
He also said this is also a form of consumerism where people are getting addicted to the internet and keep on buying air time to ‘stay on line’ and indirectly promote the internet services providers and telecommunication companies.
Concurring with Gadzikwa, journalist Nqaba Matshazi and social media enthusiast said people had become less social and slaves to social media, neglecting their already existing relationships and focusing on their pseudo-friends and pseudo-acquaintances.
“People are now connected in a virtual world but disconnected in the real world, even when one visits relatives; they are still busy on their phones, connecting with their pseudo-friends.”
The Minister of ICT, Nelson Chamisa, however said social media platforms are the trend meant to promote networking and socialising.
“I am conscious though of the downside of social networking since this is a no man’s or woman’s land, it is like a jungle where there are cases of cyber-bullying and abuse.” said the Minister.
At some events, some people would be totally engrossed in live tweeting the event and sharing it with the ‘world’ leaving them with no time to really be part of the event.
“Facebook has to be managed well and as a tool, it has to help us, but when it becomes a weapon, it is now dangerous. A cooking stick can be used as a tool to cook sadza but can also be used as a weapon to beat up a person.”
Chamisa went on to say that when done during appropriate times, social networking is a good way of socialising but when it is done during productive hours, then it is detrimental especially in the cases where one is busy tweeting and poking others on Facebook instead of serving others.
Brian Harke, Dean of Students in the University Southern California in his article Are You Addicted? said one of the concerning findings of his research was that youngsters reported feeling helpless, lonely, and anxious and would not function normally without their media tools, especially their Facebook and mobile phones, which they mainly used for texting – a form of social media networking.
One student in the research said after 24 hours of de-teching, which is staying away from all forms of digital communication, said she felt quite alone and secluded from life.
“Although I go to a school with thousands of students, the fact that I was not able to communicate with anyone via technology was almost unbearable.”
This study showed not only how easily people could get hooked on social media but also shows how technology and social networking sites, particularly Facebook, have become such an integral part of people’s lives that it would be difficult to leave them, even if one wanted to.