Chei Facebook Phenomenon
As Mother kills child crying in hunger, and husband kills wife who changed status to ‘single’—A Facebook phenomenon
Alagi Yorro Jallow
Facebook’s mission statement seems simple: “Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.” Facebook empowers users to change the world by posting links, connecting with other influencers, sharing stories, and donating and buying products. It is not intended to be used—or rather, misused—as a means of threatening another’s life or as a medium for dispersing gossips, hate, and self-aggrandizement, or for causing broken marriages and social havocs. And yet, sometimes that is exactly how it is used.
Facebook, as a social networking marvel, has crept into our lives like no other technology revolution in modern history. The social media revolution has completely transformed how we use our time. In this context, I felt it would be enlightening to understand the impact of social media on three major facets of human existence: the psychological impact, the social impact, and the revolutionary impact.
The psychological impact of Facebook on individuals is immense. The positive aspect of the entire experience has been the ability to connect with people across the world, and this brings a certain sense of joy to many people, to be able to become reacquainted with lots of your old friends. That ability to stay in touch with people irrespective of locations gives it a very positive psychological impact for many individuals. However, there is another side to this coin. I know of both old and young adults, both married and unmarried people, who wake up and get on Facebook first thing in the morning without even brushing their teeth. Personally, I have known people who stay online on Facebook for hours and hours a day. There comes a point, after the initial connection with old friends is made, where you begin idling away your time on Facebook, doing literally nothing for a long, long time.
From initially spending 10 minutes a day on Facebook, it then becomes 2 or 4 of 6 or 8 or more hours on Facebook at a stretch. This obsession and sometimes even addiction to social networking sites, the need to continually stay “connected” and feel noticed makes one prioritize these small interactions over many more important activities. This idling away the time can make you completely forget what you had initially intended or needed to get done. Facebook can be a severe distraction for students, who spend their time in social networking activities rather than doing homework or studying, and therefore receive poor grades on their exams. And it’s not just students—people who work in offices can also waste their time browsing Facebook; that is why many companies have decided to block its use.
Another area of strong influence, of course, is that of the strong and widespread social impact that Facebook and other social media can have. Though, as mentioned above, it is a great way to connect with others, one negative effect of Facebook is the ability to create fake profiles on Facebook—the ease of anonymity. People can use fake profiles to insult or even harass others, commit evils, go after other people’s spouses, and commit other anti-social vices. News from the grapevine that some women were abused by men who had made fake profiles is causing discord among families. Some use Facebook as a means of trying to promote themselves above everyone else—to manifest their own superiority at the expense of others. There are even groups and fan pages that are created solely to abuse or otherwise harm other people’s religions, races, cultures, and so forth.
It’s even been reported that one mother killed her child because it was crying in hunger while the mother was browsing Facebook. It has also been reported that a husband killed his wife because she changed her relationship status from married to single. In another social atrocity, a man has been found guilty of bigamy in Washington, D.C., after his first wife learned through Facebook that he was married to another woman. Some spiritual leaders are trying to combat these types of activities. In New York, one Imam told a congregation that Facebook and cellular phones are the major causes of divorce in many homes of Gambians in the Diaspora and elsewhere. He asserted that addiction to Facebook and other nefarious activities on Facebook often result in adultery and other unholy practices, both in our marriages and our daily lives. All over the world, there have been numerous examples showing that what people choose to do on Facebook or while using Facebook can have negative, dangerous or even deadly results.
In addition to the strong social impact, Facebook and other social media can also have a strong revolutionary impact. Truly, the greatest power of any social medium is the ability to mobilize support for social causes in a very short span of time. The Arab Spring is a case in point; it is a prominent example of the power of social media, and also reflects some of its shortcomings. The advent of the Arab Spring would not have been possible if not for social media. In Sub-Saharan Africa, however, Facebook is not yet playing the revolutionary role of inciting change and democratic expansion in chasing out dictatorships; the Sub-Saharan Spring has not yet been able to accomplish that objective. Hopefully, Facebook will have a strong impact on the political landscape there, rather than just being a way for West Africans to idle away their time.
For the legion of critics who had previously dismissed platforms like Facebook and Twitter, the toppling of regimes in Tunisia and Egypt suggested that these tools were as effective for facilitating the organization of protests and revolutions as they were for organizing keg parties. The movements throughout the Arab world appeared to have imbued social media with an irrevocable sense of legitimacy as a tool for bringing about change.
Indeed, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube services have become indispensable tools in the worlds of politics and protest. During the past year, social media have taken on an important role for revolutionaries in various areas of the Middle East, and it has enlivened and empowered both protesters here at home and across the world. The Arab Spring’s explosive growth would have been impossible without the use of Facebook, Twitter and You Tube. Protesters looking to overthrow dictators and install democracies organized on Facebook and Twitter and share YouTube videos of brutal crackdowns and other social atrocities. Their actions online made it easier to mobilize.
“Social media hyped the protesters to communicate and organize much more effectively, but the protesters posed a real threat only when they took to the streets and put their lives on the line,” said Timothy Boudreau,a professor of Journalism.
In the United States, as in some areas of the Middle East, Facebook and other social networking sites have an enormous impact on the political landscape. The Occupy Wall Street protesters have used social media to organize and mobilize thousands of participants around the country and eventually around the world, in a similar way to the Arab Spring protesters. This has allowed Occupy Wall Street to spread around the globe at a pace previously unimaginable. Recently the U.S. presidential election this November, Facebook has already had a noticeable impact, and will continue to have its mark on American politics—and that influence will only grow—in the future.
Being an open and unbiased medium, social media is actually the world’s most efficient democracy—a democracy in its truest sense. In addition, it helps to provide so much information that enriches people’s lives. Information is indeed a form of wealth, and this medium provides so much of it. Ironically, this extensive outpouring of information leads to one of the common issues that social media in general faces. Having an opinion on any issue is a right for all individuals, as is the right to share it with others; there is no doubt, however, that the power of social media is such that it can influence people’s opinions very fast—sometimes recklessly so. It also can cause opinion makers to form conclusions too quickly, and so they sometimes make shortsighted comments that later prove to be very problematic. There is a certain level of irresponsibility that comes from making such snap judgments. While it is a legitimate right for anyone to have their view, and to share it with as many people as they would like, it needs to be done with the decorum that befits educated individuals.
Amid all these various impacts of Facebook, it is evident that social media has blatanly obvious positives aspects and some surreal negative facets that get underplayed often. Though a majority of people generally focuses on and even brag about the positives, the negative impacts need to also be taken into account. Facebook liberates the common man to have his voice heard in an open platform and helps connect people across the world and across generations. In this process it provides individuals with an additional freedom to air their views on issues. However, this excessive overflow of information and connections can also have detrimental effects on personal lives and on the attitudes of individuals if it is not handled in a mature manner. As with everything in life, balance and wisdom are the key—this is as true of the virtual world as the real one. Only this balance and a mature democratic mindset can make the Facebook experience a worthwhile one, and more specifically, one that can bring about lastin, positive social and political change.
Alagi Yorro is the founding managing editor of the banned Independent newspaper in Gambia and awarding winning journalist, Harvard Alumni now lives in the United States of America.