The force that is social media


As children grew up in the past, the most important things they needed to be oriented on were general manners and etiquette, traditional values, the relevance of education, the dynamics of their religion, the issues surrounding sexual relations, matters about marriage, managing finances, housekeeping and the like. This was just about two decades ago before the emergence and rise of the internet and social media.

Of course, a great deal of these values, or the necessary orientation on these values, have been eroded because of modernisation and, more recently, digitisation. The world is evolving at a rate that few can ably keep up with. The behavioural and information gaps between generations is becoming wider and wider because of this swift pace of evolvement. And social media play a huge role in this.

Technology and social media have become strong influences on people and young people are especially susceptible to this influence. Social media influence body image, ambitions, view on life and views on a lot of other matters that young


people associate with. It also influences agendas for discussion and news. When something is happening, people are able to follow the events through social media, whether the events are happening within their country or abroad.

The Mugabe ‘elegant’ coup that unfolded over the past few days and the way it held the world to anxiety ransom brought fresh memories of the time of elections in the United States last year. The globe was on the edge following instant updates as they came on, in terms of who was leading between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, to the point when Trump was announced and sworn in as president. Social media played a very active role in spreading the news that even those that do not follow international news had no choice but to watch the events unfold in front of them.

It is alleged that social media have become such a strong force that governments are also using social media as tools for gauging people’s reactions to various matters, the recent traffic fines saga right here at home comes to mind. It is also strong enough that political parties use it to campaign and evaluate the popularity of rival parties. Both our ruling party and the main opposition have a presence and followership online. Coincidence?


The point is social media are a force on their own.

It is essential that the engagement of young people with new media becomes an issue that is handled with importance and sensitivity by those that engage in guidance and in raising young people. Since schools have also taken to new media as part of the learning process, they should have courses designed to equip young people on best practices when dealing with new media

Nowadays, even before children can understand what is going on, they pick up habits such as posing for the camera, taking videos on phones, the practice of adults who spend a lot of their time texting or talking on the phone at all times becomes the norm for children, even before they can discern when it is appropriate to do that— or before they know what is appropriate to end up on the phone or not. By upper primary school, most children have mobile phones and are on WhatsApp. By the time they reach secondary school, most children have social media accounts. So, even education is being affected by technology and social media norms

Young people are now party to political hate speech, LGBT campaigns, feminism and gender issues, racism, religion versus atheism and, recently, in the country, the bloodsucking saga. These are complicated topics which can impact the behaviour of children, confusing or misleading immature minds which may not have the necessary background of these matters.

In the past, it was easier for parents and teachers to observe what children were reading and watching but mobile phones make it harder to do so as they are private gadgets and they aggregate vast data from all possible sources. This makes it imperative that social media orientation should be done from a very tender age when a child is forming their intrinsic character. It is dangerous to treat the emergence of social media and its influence on society and the human being with passivity.

I rest my case.

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