The dark side of social media


In this century, those without smart phones are considered dinosaurs and they are talked about as those ‘left behind by the world’.

But do the ‘connected ones’ ever consider the stress that comes with keeping up with the technological advancements of our time?

While technology eases communication, connects the world and opens doors of trade and commerce, it comes along with a lot of stress and other often unconsidered disadvantages that hinder productivity.

I consider WhatsApp the greatest social and economic evil of the 21st century. 

Just like the Brexit, nobody can fully measure the amount of productive time the global economy losses due to WhatsApp, Facebook and other time-consuming social media platforms.

Think about the amount of time that workers spend on social media. If quantified, this would show a significant loss on national output. An enormous amount of productive time is spent every day on this road to self-destruction.

WhatsApp is addictive as it connects a huge number of people, providing a mechanism for group gossip through the formed groups.

It is not a surprise these days to find that one is a member of 50 WhatsApp groups of varying social connections, which one attends to every day.

Cartoon: The Darkside of Social Media

Add to that another 100 or so individual connections. And these groups have very interesting names: “gogolimbo family”, “the tour experience”, “senior six of 2000”, emeeting at the well”, “Kifefe boys”, “Man U fans”, “singles only”, ncrime preventers allied”, “we are going to Heaven”, “Trump oyee”, “ the bar dwellers”, “politics at glance”, to mention but a few.

I have observed people concentrate on WhatsApp during lectures, in slow traffic, during the sermon at church, and sometimes in meetings!

I have also seen public servants attend to group WhatsApp pages at a time when they are supposed to attend to office duties. Imagine an hour spent on 50 WhatsApp at the expense of one’s expected output at work!

It is also undisputed that WhatsApp has broken marriages and spoilt relationships. In some homes, WhatsApp has taken the position of husband or wife. The attention and care that a partner is entitled to in marriage is now given to the phone or the laptop or whichever gadget is being used.

Children no longer welcome or listen to their parents since that time is replaced by WhatsApp. 

It is not unusual to find a child busy on the phone as their parents talk to them.

It is these social bonds of unity, respect, care, empathy, relationship building, active listening, and companionship that social media has cost us.

As we embrace the wonders of technology, we have got to be careful that it does not cost us our humanity. It requires extraordinary discipline on the side, including the discipline to regulate ourselves on when and where to attend to social media so as to overcome this self-inflicted harm.

It will also require corporate entities to devise means to block the use of social media for their employees whenever they are on duty, sometimes by employing tough measures such as confiscating gadgets during working hours.

Organisations might have to enact policies that regulate this dangerous habit and provide tough sanctions against those in breach, and also ensure that they pay wages commensurate with the amount of work done.

Birungi is a fourth year student of Bachelor of Laws at UCU