“I have seen a number of claims that social media is detrimental to humans, is this factual? Should we reconsider our social media use?”
One of the most influential person who tweets on a daily basis is Donald Trump. He has over 47 million followers and he follows 45 people.
Since joining, he has to his credit almost 37,000 tweets. By any standard, the 45th President of the USA has used social media to great effect.
According to Pope Francis, the first perpetrator of fake news was the serpent in the Garden of Eden. Using the then equivalent of social media, the snake persuaded Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit. That is how fake news led to the original sin!
As you can see, the concept of harm done by the spread of news has not escaped the Holy Father. Vatican news is a community of four million users on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram. Clearly the Pope cannot be left behind as he must remain in contact with his social media flock.
Your question, however, has the potential to raise many issues that are pertinent to the present situation.
When the computer revolution was just beginning, there was an animated debate in Kenya as to the harm it would do to the work force. Some senior officials in government held the (mistaken) view that computers would not only take over most of the jobs then done by human beings but that this would lead to massive unemployment in the country.
Thirty years later, computers are some of the zero rated items for tax purposes. This indicates the central role they play in our economy. Few would argue that computerisation “took away jobs”. Indeed, most would agree that few, if any organisations can function without computers.
The whole Safaricom and M-Pesa revolution in Kenya is the story of computing taken to virtually all adults in Kenya. No bank, insurance company or even hospital can exist without computers. Dairy and horticultural farmers depend heavily on computing science in their total value chain. Because of IT, all Kenyans are impacted (most for the better) in one way or another.
Growth of social media in the last 10 years is nothing short of a social revolution. Kenyans pass good and bad news to one another via social media. Whether it is Kilimani Mums exchanging notes on the most intimate of issues, or helping each other find the best bargains for children’s clothes, social media is a central component of interaction.
Many young men have found ways around alcoblow traps by the use of social media, while farmers now exchange information on all aspects of farm produce. The main source of traffic news is via social media. Like it or not, social media, like computers is here to stay!
That, however, is not your question. You would like to know if social media is detrimental to humans. As a doctor, your question brings to mind a matter that has over the years defied an answer. “Is alcohol detrimental to humans” is an issue very similar to the social media matter you now raise.
As we have already demonstrated, social media for the majority, in moderation is not harmful and in many cases becomes a lubricant to the way society operates these days. Used by adults in moderation, alcohol is a social lubricant that is enjoyed by millions all over the world.
Social media, used by anybody in excess is harmful. Many children have fallen in harm’s way, either because they have spent too much time on social media at the expense of school time, while others have posted images they have come to regret. Others have met pedophiles who present themselves as good and gentle uncles.
Dating couples no longer touch hands at dinner, preferring to send each other love messages in various social media platforms. Is this a good or bad thing? For us it is simply a new thing!
It might be a good thing to discuss the good and the bad about social media. In so doing, remember we are a free nation where government cannot control us. On the other hand, adults and in particular parents have the duty to ensure that no harm comes to children via social media.