It is undeniable that the impact of social media on our society is a major issue. Recently, there have been a few statements made in the Zambian print press about the dangers of social media that have gone as far as proposing intervention by public authority. Yes, public authority as in the government!
We are evaluating the scope and significance of the negative impacts of social media as iterated in the media in order to identify what kind of danger, if any, our society faces. It makes sense to call for adequate sensitisation and guidance on how to effectively use social media for positive results.
However, we are prompted to question the strong recommendations for comprehensive research into the use of social media by the youth to be undertaken by government and various stakeholders. What has all of a sudden evoked this sense of urgency to investigate social media usage in Zambia? What other harm other than gossip has social media brought upon our pristine fabric of society? Cases of “defamation” and “character assassination” are definitely nothing new. Should newspapers and any other medium used for information dissemination also be shutdown, controlled or monitored vigorously because people tell stories through those instruments? C.G. Jung put it perfectly when he said that, “what you resist, persists.”
It is common knowledge that every pro has a con, and every coin has two sides. Therefore, it is impossible to expect that even with adequate measures in place to address the negative impacts of social media, they will simply vanish.
Unfortunately we do not have any stats on criminal and other activity that occurs via the internet: such as cyber-bullying, stalking, child pornography, email scams, phising, malware and virus attacks as well as website attacks by hackers and other activity which can threaten personal security, privacy and national security.
Alternatively, it is commendable that people are concerned about the dangers of social media before things get out of hand. We will assume that they are taking a preventive step. Sharing too much information on social media definitely has its drawbacks. For instance, any one can access, download and save your pictures if you do not have proper privacy settings. Even when you do, your “friends” can still download your pictures, copy and paste your status and so many other things.
Here are some tips to assist in safeguarding against cyber bullying, according to nobullying.com:
- never share personal information online or meet people you only know online.
- not share anything you don’t want made public through texting or instant messaging.
- parents should keep the computer centrally located in a shared area (i.e. living room or family room) and not allow teens to have computers or Internet access in their own rooms.
From a business perspective, according to ehow.com:
“Social networking sites are putting the worlds of promotion and publication on an equal playing field. Now anyone can create a product, image or brand and find a following online… In the days before social networking, unknown authors would have to query big publishing houses and hope for a bite. Now anyone who believes in their book can create an ebook on their own and promote it on social websites.”
It seems to me that we need social networks more than ever and probably can’t do without them at this stage of the digital revolution. This is because we have become part of a network of friends, family and businesses that we need to keep an eye on.
Featured Image Credit: afronline.org