How social media has robbed us of life’s little surprises

OPINION |

A joke doing the rounds pokes fun at how hopelessly social media has ensnared us. Upon waking up in the morning, few people are concerned about their bodily faculties such as hearing and speech, or whether their legs are still in place. Instead, most of us head straight to our electronic devices to consume the most recent posts on Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Twitter and Instagram.

It is as if we have transposed ourselves virtually to distant worlds in which our present and immediate realities matter little. And it is a densely populated world of 3.78 billion social media users, according to reliable statistics. Blame it on the ubiquity of modern technologies, particularly smartphones and computers. Young people are particularly impacted, 84 per cent of the 3.78 billion being between the ages of 18 and 29 years. Many social media denizens are practically dropping out of society to subsist entirely on online content.

Inside this bubble of virtual reality, quality time is no longer available for life’s small, enriching experiences which ordinarily would comprise a person’s holistic growth. This is unlike the past when the main milestones in a person’s life trickled by progressively and predictably. Delayed gratification was a potent incentive for the young to work harder towards a brighter future where the pleasures and privileges denied them by societal constrictions would be freely accessible.

Now, social media has prematurely and mercilessly ripped open the bag containing life’s essential surprises. Even before teenage, mere striplings have seen it all, becoming exposed to intimate human anatomy, drugs, sex etcetera than their parents did in a lifetime. To be sure, electronic technology is indispensable. Its documented advantages far outweigh any downsides. ‘Zoom’ meetings in particular have helped governments, corporates and universities circumvent the Covid-19 wave almost unscathed.

Experts have long warned that over-indulgence in social media contributes towards the exponential increase of most psychological disorders, including depression and suicide. What needs to be similarly exhaustively documented is the developmental havoc wreaked by social media on growing children and the youth in the form of this excessive exposure. Over-hyped online betting, for instance, has brought addiction to many, and luck to a few.

Spousal relationships are also seriously imperiled by social media, mainly by way of couples being glued to their phones too long to accord each other attention. Reportedly, there is also a nasty tendency to benchmark relationships with impossibly high romantic standards set by movie stars, and other ‘celeb’ types, forgetting that it is in these folks’ day job description to choreograph perfection! One authority summarises the risks this way: “increased usage of social media may lead to marital problems, infidelity, and divorce. Excessive time spent on social media has been shown to negatively impact romantic relationships.” Truly, our world is getting increasingly clutched in a vice-like grip by social media. Is it just a matter of time before our vital social fabric breaks under the weight of neglect?

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