In Africa, social networks are gradually undermining traditional community relationships, argues Roland Uwakwe, 26, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Abuja, Nigeria. He says youths absorbed in the online world now rarely greet or respect their elders.
Social networks with their good and bad influences are here to stay. To contemplate otherwise is to live behind the times.
Young Africans must begin to use the opportunity created by this technology to catch up with their contemporaries elsewhere.
Our fathers may have failed or succeeded, but our intellectual abilities are needed to move Africa forward in the face of the changed and changing realities of the modern world.
No doubt the main force propelling the world in the 21st century is globalization – the gradual connection of people across the planet. Fueled by internet technology, it is creating a world without boundaries and territories.
Theorists say that development is uneven, meaning every society develops at its own rate, just like a child. At every stage a nation’s development there are characters, behaviours and attitudes expected.
Most western societies are at the age of high mass consumption where what to eat is no longer an issue, says Walt Rostow in his Stages of Economic Growth. By contrast, the majority of countries in Africa are still preparing to take off. Yet the youth in these communities have absorbed the tastes of the so-called developed western societies, including the desire for social networks.
Social networks are a beneficial and interesting mode of making social, business, educational and scientific connections. But I believe Africans are not yet ready for this fast, easy, but lazy lifestyle.
Online platforms facilitate the building of social relations among people who share interests, activities, background, or real life connections. It started in the 1990s with Myspace and Google. Facebook surfaced in 2004. Now the web-based platforms include Twitter, Sphere, Nexopia, Bebo, Kontakte and 2go among others.
But in Africa the social networks are gradually putting a stop to our collective manner of living. Youths these days hardly greet or respect their elders. Either they are busy online or are lost in a state of self delusion at home, on the road, and in the market place.
In the taxi and even in the worship places, youths are seen with their eyes gazing at the phone or the computer.
In fact since the advent of the Blackberry and iPhone there has been a mad street rush by young people, especially the damsels in Africa, to own one. Many have slept with wrong persons to buy one. Some even steal just to get connected.
Because social networks damage interpersonal relationships and healthy communications, most young people are gradually losing a sense of face-to-face relationships with neighbours, creating a disconnection within the immediate community.
As a student of peace and war studies, I know that violence easily erupts when members of a community are disconnected. Little wonder we have a lot of crises emanating from Africa.
Social networking creates insincere and unreal friendships. Everybody poses like a ‘Big Boy’ of some sort, and because of high rates of poverty young people are moved by these fantasies even when they themselves are faking.
Young folks can kick start relationships by using animated technology to post photos that look good to the eyes. In fact Erich Witte, a psychologist with the University of Hamburg, says in less than ten years online dating will be the predominate way for people to relate.
Yet modern communication technologies provide people with a false sense of connection that ultimately increases loneliness.
Neuroscientist John T. Cacioppo claims that social networking can foster feelings of sensitivity to disconnection, which can lead to isolation. People go into social networks most times to look for company, but come away from the screen feeling even more alone than they were.
Developed societies may not feel the impact of this easy but lazy way to live because their institutions are already well built and structured. They have nothing much to worry about besides interacting and enjoying the good and bad works of their fathers.
We in the so-called third world must adjust and take the gains and opportunity created by the social networks to facilitate education and scientific research.
Young people can learn a lot by using social networking to share knowledge and information, rather than by mis-using it with sex chatting.
Photo: Commonwealth Images
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/
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