Saturday, August 5, 2017

How social media is changing our way of life

It might be difficult or unimaginable  for us to understand the evolution of social media and how it is affecting our way of life until we  look ten years back comparing how life was different from today’s picture. The globalization idea which might have been a simple theory over few decades ago is now practically happening in real. From posting pictures, live videos on Facebook and Instagram to tweeting 140 characters on twitter and snapping moments on Snapchat in anywhere and anytime in the world, there is no doubt that social media is now changing our lifestyle into a whole different level. For some people, it is was unimaginable and beyond their assumption at the beginning of the 21st century that this was possible. Well, it happened.

And just to be grateful for these gifts, let me start by thanking Mark Zuckerberg the founder of Facebook, Jack Dorsey, Noah Glass, Biz Stone, and Evan Williams who created the Twitter and the two genius entrepreneurs Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger the founders of the famous photo/video-sharing social network Instagram. 

According to study conducted by World Economic Forum, there are billions of users connected to social media on a daily basis and that number is just growing by the day. It is estimated that by next year (2018) number of social media users will hit 2.44 billion that is almost 32% of entire world population. In 2010 the total number was just 970,000. To put this into more practice, currently we send more than 30 million messages on Facebook and more than 350,000 tweets every minute. About 95 million photos are also uploaded on Instagram.

Internet evolution in Somalia and the raise of Smartphones

First thing first let’s look the internet accessibility revolution in Somalia and how the whole drama has started. Back in 2002, I remember, that was the first time I started using internet. Perhaps others started long before that time. There were very few ISP (Internet Service Providers) in Mogadishu. Thanks to my late cousin who used to take me to a popular local internet café in afternoons. Customers were lined up like they were waiting to see a doctor in a hospital. We used to go to the internet once in a month or maybe or maybe twice in month.
However, the emerging of many local internet service providers in the country has enabled millions of Somalis to have access to internet and stay connected round the clock. The number of mobile cellular users has also increased much faster, from 1.1 per 100 people in 2000 to 52.5 per 100 people in 2015 and perhaps 78.5 per 100 in the coming five years. Add this to accessibility of the internet which has dramatically increased over the recent years. Internet has significantly and profoundly played pivotal role in every aspect of our lives, people use it for various reasons such as business, education, and media and most importantly for social interaction as a result of the social media tools.

Now social media, like more than anything else, is changing our way of life. A sixty years old women once asked “why everybody is raising his/her hands up while holding their phones and talking like they are crazy?” probably they were capturing live stories about their moments but this may seem unbelievable to this lady and many other Somali old folks who think this is miracle in the happening.

Social media as news platform: Replacing  the traditional media outlets

Gone are the days of listening radios or BBC. I remember how my grandfather used to listen BBC Somali news while sipping his cup of tea in the afternoons. If you lived in Somalia, you might as well remember how locals used to gather in restaurants and other popular places to listen BBC and lately VOA which was broadcasted in the afternoon and evening. Now days, the source of news is either facebook, twitter or other social media platforms. You open your mobile phone and the whole thing that is happening inside the country and around the world is just one click away! Still wondering how it is possible.

The citizen journalism

Social media has come with unique platform of journalism, From press conferences, street protests to deadly explosions and shooting, Smartphones and social media are empowering citizens to tell their stories like never before. For instance, if something happens in Somalia it is jut few seconds until you find out because someone has just tweeted it. This is quite different from how the news is covered in the traditional mainstream media. It gives the citizen a journalistic platform to share the events and viewpoints in a way that would otherwise might not be seen in the mainstream media. However, this has also its disadvantages as some citizens might share some unverified or fake news and graphic stuff since the editor, the cameraman and the news presenter is just one person with smartphone.

Nomophobia: A raising trend among social media users

The availability of smart phones, tablets and fast internet connection can be a blessing but also a curse. Today’s generation area constantly connected to internet through these devices but the day it is taken away is like the end of our world. There is even new term called Nomophobia(The Fear of Being without Phone Phobia). To clarify this, Nomophobia is a kind of mental illness caused by technology, or lack of it. It is described, simply, as the extreme phobia or fear of being without a mobile phone or without a signal on one’s phone. On July 2017, there was internet blockade in Mogadishu and most South Central Somalia regions for 23 days due to technical problem with the country’s biggest internet provider. For many of us, those days without internet were like the worst days of the year.

People are now days so much addicted to their mobile phones and internet that they even took their phones to convenience rooms! Just not to miss the moment. Sometimes you heard WhatsApp or facebook Messenger notification tone inside the toilet. I asked one of my friends what is the last thing you do before you sleep at night? He said “I update my facebook/instagram status. Again I asked him what is the first thing you do in the morning when you wake up “I check how many likes/comments i have received out of my last night’s posts/pictures.” He replied. For some of my friends it has even become habit that they sleep late at night or don’t sleep at all until the dawn just checking and updating their social media.

The negative effect

One of the negative aspect of social media is obviously is that it eliminated the traditional social interaction among friends and family members. You find group of friends gather together for a meeting or just normal coffee time in one of the good afternoons only to find them being connected to the internet and looking their phones without talking to each other. The issue has seriously affected family relationships to an extent that couples are no longer taking time together at nights but rather connected to the internet interacting with their other friends!. The kids on the hand, are busy updating their status as well.  A wise man once said turn off the WiFi after 7pm and dedicate that time with your family. Take that as a brotherly advice.

Finally, we all know that social media is an essential component of our daily lives, it is powerful platform that empowers us to tell our own stories in our own ways. It  allow us to express our expression and our feelings . However, it is recommended that we use it wisely without allowing it to take full control of our lives. Here are some of my advice:-

1.       Your behavior and personal manners is judged by the posts you post on social media. So make sure that your posts and everything you share reflects your inner personality. 
2.       Avoid spending too much time on social media, my friend once gave me a nice advice “stop tweeting and start reading.” According to some health studies, being on social media for several hours can lead to even psychological disorders.
3.       Use it for educational, business or any other personal issues that might be useful to you or to others. Don’t just share things that might be harmful or abusive to others.
4.       Assume that everything you put on a social networking site is permanent. Even if you can delete your account, anyone on the Internet can easily print photos or text or save images and videos to a computer.
5.       Don’t just post everything including your own privacy life. I mean I am big believer of freedom of expression but anything you post today on social media can be used tomorrow to execute online attack against you or those around you.
6.       And as the wise man said, turn the off the WiFi (if it is possible) in the evening when you come home and spend some good time with your family and your children
7.       Be careful, it is never safe to be in social media. Your online accounts might be hacked or compromised by the evildoers. Make sure you are using strong passwords. Stories of online hacking are on the raise everywhere in the world and you can imagine what can happen when your account is hacked.
8.       Most importantly if you are parent Talk to your kids about social networking and guide them on the appropriate use of it.

With that saying, I would like to conclude my argument that social media can be enjoyable when used moderately and prudently. The problem is that we frequently overuse and often misuse it which is negatively impacting our way of thinking and socializing with others. Excessive social networking is a disease and we desperately need a cure. 

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