The Sunday Mail
Why, you ask? Well it is undeniable that the world now heavily relies on social media for smooth communication. Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, Viber, Instagram and Linkedin are just a few that come to mind — one finds themselves being asked at any particular gathering or parting: “Hey, we should keep in touch, are you on Whatsapp? Facebook?”
And one is inclined to hesitate and stutter in answer if they find themselves not belonging to one social network or the other.
“You should check my latest pictures on Instagram,” or “Check our company profile and contact details on Facebook”, are very common phrases amongst people in present-day society.
What with the world becoming a global village and moving at this fast pace, it is no wonder that people’s lives are now generally controlled, monitored and made easy by social media.
Even this article that you are reading, dear reader, is enabled by this creature that I am talking about, the virtual world of communication.
Granted, it is one of the more ancient ones, that is paper, but you are probably in Masvingo reading this piece of paper which was printed in Harare, Zimbabwe, or maybe you are on an online link in Malaysia.
The world which we find ourselves in is now becoming increasingly advanced by the day, technologically especially. We, the black people of Africa who at some point used smoke and drums as a signal to the next village in case of important news, now have twelve-year-old children who would rather not have a mobile phone at all rather than have one which does not go on Facebook, Whatsapp or any other social media. My colleague narrated how her son was offered an ordinary, basic mobile phone by his father, to which he retorted, “Dad, if you don’t have money to buy a better phone for me, then I’ll wait, but thank you nonetheless.” This was obviously in fear of humiliation since his peers now own the latest smartphones and I-pads. There are I-pad minis even, for the little tots who also want to be in the know of what’s happening.
We now have grandmothers who will not wait for your next physical visit to make their requests for medicine and new tennis shoes, instead we have gogos and sekurus who know how to credit a cellphone using recharge cards, and who know which spot in the homestead yard would have the best network. Gogos who know how to swipe phones with touch screens, who know that there is a function on their grandchild’s phone where they can record their voice and have it sent to their precious, missed son who is in the UK.
Long lost friends and colleagues are getting and keeping in touch via these social media networks, lovers meeting online first, jobs, school and scholarships advertised and applied for via these means instead of the slower post and physical methods we used in past times. One can even purchase online and have their goods and services delivered without them making a single step from the comfort of their lounge.
So to some extent, the existence of this virtual world is a pure God-sent gift. It makes life all the much easier, things are generally said faster and important decisions made promptly.
But then obviously, with every good development comes a bad one. I am sure I speak for most parents here when I say that these communication gadgets have resulted in children becoming more and more naughty as they are exposed to limitless, potentially destructive material on their smartphones.
Picture this: Petty and Bob, both executives with two children, buy their elder son Tapfuma an Android smartphone — mainly for the reason that he has just started his third form in high school and this implies more research on his various Science assignments. The phone makes it easier for him to communicate with friends and family abroad without interfering much with his parents’ ever busy phones and computers.
But then again, Tapfuma is not stupid. He knows how to download the latest hip-hop and rap music, where to go for beautiful girls’ nude pictures, even where to create an account if he wants to chat up one of them. Even when he has no net access, his good friend Simba will inevitably send him any “interesting” stuff he may stumble across via Whatsapp. Needless to say, Tapfuma appears to be the perfect child but secretly, his mind is corrupted by what he has been prematurely exposed to, so corrupted that what he says to girls in the name of flirting — “sexting” they call it, would have his mother collapse in a second if she heard even the half of it.
Similarly, Bob has a professional profile on Linkedin and a blog where he offers motivational articles to his followers. Awesome — it befits his reputable character in society. But what Petty has no idea of is that Bob has a secret profile on Facebook under the name “Captain Brian”, a profile under which he stalks girls and “likes” pages that talk about random sexcapades, glorifying cheating on spouses and the fun of double crossing women. The page even has dozens of single women whom he has virtual relationships with. He normally entertains these women from the comfort and privacy of his study. Except now Bob has one particular woman he is planning to meet and maybe take things a little further.
But you see, Petty has no idea of all this. Why, you ask? Because once, she was conned by a Facebook referral who had her pay for non-existent goods that never came.
Furthermore, the one time she had an account, her ex stalked her and ended up sending messages asking for her hand back – which upon discovery did not amuse Bob in the least bit. Petty and Bob had previously subscribed to the whole “we don’t believe in passwords, we are one” theory. So to this day she maintains her distance from social media and only has an email address to keep in touch with important people in her life. And her new policy is, “ukatsvaga-makudo-mugomo-unomawana,” (if you look for baboons in a mountain you will find them), so basically what she doesn’t know will not kill her. But really, will it not? I know of hundreds of women who shy away from their husbands’ phones not for respect of the so-alled privacy but for fear of the worst.
I can almost hear you say, “well of course, people still do cheat on their partners even in the absence of social media. Kids are still naughty regardless of its presence or absence.”
I hear myself say it with you too. But, dear reader, doesn’t limitless social media just make it worse? Just a tad worse than it would be if we were still relying on the good old landline?
I know we are moving towards a paperless world, which should all be for the better, shouldn’t it? A world in which everyone is intertwined and connected somewhere, somehow. I am just saying I wish there could be a way to monitor — limit — cut out the bad, especially to the young ones.
I fear for my neighbour’s little girl who was ripping her clothes apart just the other day so she could look more like Lady Gaga, and then posing in a sexually provocative manner whilst the older boys she was playing with were taking pictures and videos using their smartphones.
What are your thoughts, my dear reader? Because maybe I am in denial of where we are going. It’s just that when I was young I had one thing to play with. It was called “outside”.
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