By Ojonugwa Ugboja
ABUJA (Sundiata Post) In what many believe to be an unwitting decision, a pastor’s wife in Ghana sent a nude video of herself to a WhatsApp (social media app) group instead of her husband, the intended recipient. In similar circumstances, people’s private lives, especially the kind not meant for public consumption have often found their way into the public square known as the internet, leaving the victims heartbroken.
But the above scenario is only one of the ways that social media has become a misleading tool in our hands. The world is beginning to realise that in spite of the ease that the internet brings, especially with making the world a global village, there is an accompanying challenge of addiction and unhappiness.
Recently, a former Facebook executive, as reported by Guardian UK, said he feels “tremendous guilt” over his work on “tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works”, joining a growing chorus of critics of the social media giant.
Chamath Palihapitiya, who was vice-president for user growth at Facebook before he left the company in 2011, said: “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation, mistruth.”
Other tech heads like Sean Parker, the co-founder of Facebook believes that social media, especially Facebook has been built in a way to exploit the vulnerability of humans, causing them to remain addicted and socially ineffective. The situation as he understands it is so bad that even him and many other tech heads do not use social media themselves.
Psychologists have also found that the continuous use of social media often leave people craving endless validation from others in order to find happiness, the absence of which leaves them distraught. Other consequences include the needless comparison between themselves and others, often based on what is being ‘shown’ to them on those feeds and timelines. As anyone should know, this breeds bitterness, the kind that can lead to depression.
Social media addiction causes so many people to become isolated from the real world and fixated only on what is going on in the virtual world, to the detriment of not only those around them, but to themselves too.
Social media deprives us of the most vital thing we need to get ahead in life – time. According to psychological studies, spending as little as three hours a day on the internet is already a sign of addiction, but it is common knowledge now that three hours is way below the daily average of many of us.
Kids’ ages 8 to 18 now spend an average of 10 hours and 45 minutes a day, seven days a week with media. That translates into 75 hours and 15 minutes per week, nearly twice as many hours as their parents put into full-time jobs according to research published by the Kaiser Family Foundation in January 2010.
In third world countries like Nigeria, internet access is spreading, but expensively too. Having too many people busy on their phones and laptops means that people are allocating scarce resources to things that shouldn’t be a priority. Social media is a big financial drain that many fail to recognise.
It has also become a corridor for easy pornography and lecherous contents available to kids and even adults that finds them offensive. Social media has become an enabler of this vile culture.
With how social media notifications are configured, even users who are unwilling are made to keep going back because they keep getting alerts about messages or posts on their social media accounts.
‘’I have realised that social media takes most of my time and makes me procrastinate a lot,’’ said a Facebook user who spoke with Sundiata Post. ‘’Even when I am at work, I can hardly keep my eyes off my phone. I really believe that it is a serious distraction.’’
It is obvious that people admit their own obsession with social media and recognise the inherent dangers. And at a time when even tech heads themselves are speaking out against how it is being used to exploit users in a negative way, one would hope that people begin to adjust their social media usage before it becomes too late.