AUTHOR Clay Shirky once said “Our social tools are not an improvement to modern society, they are a challenge to it.”
Report by Jairos Saunyama
Technological advancement brought us the Internet and with it came various social platforms ranging from instant messengers to picture-sharing sites.
One begins to wonder if these social platforms are helping us in our day-to-day lives or are actually challenging our traditional social interactions.
Of late, it has emerged that social media has contributed to the destruction of many families in Zimbabwe and beyond.
Many stories have been written in local papers where husbands are caught red-handed cheating on the Internet or vice-versa.
On the other hand, social media has been regarded as the modern monster that is influencing the youth as well as affecting the moral behaviour at the expense of the family.
The civil courts in the country are dealing with loads and loads of divorces, with some of the cases being influenced by social media.
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Both men and women are meeting new partners on social sites which will lead to real relationships that will end up destroying marriages.
Most married men and women are no longer willing to share their mobile phones, with some applying passwords in a bid to conceal their deceitful ways.
With the launch of Facebook, Twitter and numerous other sites, the world has truly become a global village, with information being spread across continents in seconds.
Social networking has fostered many new relationships and has enabled the reunion of long-lost friends, lovers and even family.
Social networking also guarantees ease of communication for lovers whether near or far.
However, just like everything else in life, social media has its disadvantages that have proved to be detrimental to families.
“The advent of Facebook brought sorrow in my life. I realised that my husband was having an extramarital affair with a woman whom he met on Facebook two years back. It was too late for me to counter the problem because the woman was also pregnant,” Martha Mhuriro from Budiriro said.
Paul Marimira from Marondera said he lost his girlfriend of five years after realising that she was flirting on Facebook as well as on Whatsapp.
“My girlfriend left her phone at my place and I could not believe what I saw. She was flirting with a number of men on both Facebook and Whatsapp. I had no option, but to call it off,” he said.
Social networking has made it easy to meet new people and this increases the temptation to cheat and gives a wider range of options to those who choose to. It was created as a tool for fostering communication, and has also ironically reduced effective communication among couples.
Not only married people or those in relationships are being affected by this phenomenon.
But parents as well are encountering problems, with some children becoming wild and irresponsible.
“My children are indeed troublesome. You cannot order them to do something since they will be busy with their phones. It is irritating. The Internet is keeping my children busy” 55-year-old Leah Tembo from Waterfalls lamented.
Sociologist Darlington Nyabiko said social media had its own fair share of disadvantages to families.
“Social media sites such as Facebook, Whatsapp and MySpace offer multiple daily opportunities for connecting with friends, classmates, and people with shared interests.
“Because of their limited capacity for self-regulation and susceptibility to peer pressure, children and adolescents are at some risk as they navigate and experiment with social media. Recent research indicates that there are frequent online expressions of offline behaviours, such as bullying, clique-forming, and sexual experimentation.
“Internet addiction and concurrent sleep deprivation are also major problems,” Nyabiko said.
Some of the disadvantages of social media to the youths include cyber-bullying, using digital media to communicate false, embarrassing, or hostile information about another person.
It is the most common online risk for all teens and is a peer-to-peer risk.
“Sexting” can be defined as sending, receiving, or forwarding sexually explicit messages, photographs, or images via cellphone, computer, or other digital devices.
Many of these images become distributed rapidly via cellphones or the Internet.
In a survey conducted in 2011, emerged that one-third of the divorces in the United States were linked to Facebook.
The ease of information means that somebody can relay your indiscretions to your partner just at the touch of a button.