It’s really quite staggering how social media has impacted so many people’s lives and, in many respects, has transformed the way people – particularly the younger ones – lead their lives. Of course it’s not just young people who participate, but they seem to have totally embraced and even become obsessed with social media. It was not so many years ago that people were adapting to the widespread use of e-mail to provide rapid communications between each other. Now, it seems clear that even e-mail is far too slow for most young people.
There is no doubt that the internet has been a positive development, notwithstanding the fact that no one seems to have much control over the various abuses which inevitably accompany such a development. I readily admit that it is a rare day that I do not look for some information online for personal or business use, and it’s likely that overall, the positives of the internet far outweigh the potential negatives.
I am, however, less convinced about the net benefit of social media. Certainly, it has proved useful in times of crises when rapid communications can make a big difference and when the ability to send information to a large number of people very quickly can save lives. However, apart from that, it becomes less of a positive to my mind.
I have always had difficulty understanding why people want to “connect” with so many other people and then share photos and details of their personal lives with the rest of the world. This is often harmless, if rather pointless and perhaps somewhat narcissistic, but the criminal fraternity soon discovered that social media provided a huge opportunity to take advantage of naïve people. As time goes on, the scams get ever more sophisticated, and despite the widespread publicity they receive, the number of victims seems to continue unabated.
My real concern is how easily social media becomes addictive. You can go to restaurants and coffee shops these days and see the majority of patrons glued to their smartphones, even when sitting with friends. I have seen people trip or bump into objects or other people because they were so intently staring at the tiny screen. It gets even more dangerous when people ignore all the regulations and use their phone to type or read messages while driving. I drive to Penang quite often and usually spend most of the time in the fast lane. On several occasions, cars have drifted into my lane because the driver was so focused on his phone.
The other big problem is the amount of incorrect information disseminated through social media. Most recipients have no way to know the veracity of the latest piece of news, nor do they usually bother to verify it. My family is often telling me of some happening or other piece of social media news which I can quickly surmise is fake, just based on my own experience. Often this leads to a heated discussion until I can prove the information is indeed false, which given some of the outlandish “news” items they quote, is most of the time.
Sometimes I am not sure if it’s more a problem with social media or with the devices themselves. iPads seem to be compulsory for many children, and mine are no exception. I became quite exasperated recently when I took my children out for dinner, and, upon reaching the shopping centre, was advised by my 7-year-old daughter that she had actually forgotten to put her shoes on! She had not, however, forgotten to bring her iPad, which was firmly clutched to her chest. I had to make it very clear that the new pair of shoes I was then forced to buy her was not, in fact, a reward.
As for me, I still enjoy a good book and glass of wine. I suppose the good news is I rarely get disturbed because the rest of the family are usually staring intently at their PCs, iPads, or smartphones!
Original Source: The Expat magazine – August 2015
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