Back in the day, when we saw a beautiful sight, we would take a photo of it from behind the camera and then put the photo in an album, which we might occasionally take out and look at again — in rare instances we might bring out the album to show someone else the photos — family, maybe, a few close friends perhaps, but certainly not the whole world. Now, well, we have to be in the picture also, just to prove we were there, (though our close-up face may well be blocking the beautiful view) and then we must ensure that all those who follow us (and also those who follow those who follow us) know that we have been there by posting it online. We are living in a whole new world but have we considered what is happening in this sphere objectively and critically?
Consider then, some of the things people do on facebook or other social media platforms. They send anniversary or birthday greetings, accompanied by gushing remarks, to their spouse or children – why do they not do so face to face, personally, individually, and if they do so, why do they need to do so again on facebook? They send birthday greetings to people where everyone can see their wishes — why do they not send them directly and privately to the person concerned? Is it laziness or egotism, to show others that they are smart and have remembered? They publicly thank people for all their birthday wishes (making us think there were thousands when maybe there were only two, while also perhaps nudging those who did not send a message to do so now) — why do they not thank people individually? They engage in private conversations with people publicly instead of doing so privately — do they not realise everyone else has to listen in to their conversation (or is that what they want, like people talking very loudly in public places)?
Then there are those who give live updates on sporting events when we can see them on sports or news channels — since when did they become reporters, especially for teams or sports in which we have no interest? They give their opinions of the match, the performances, the officials, and so on after the match when no-one has actually asked them for that — what interest or benefit is it to others to know what they thought of the match? They repost their own news events from a previous year which perhaps implies that they have got nothing new to say — but since when is it a history channel? They post numerous video clips ranging from raunchy to unkind (fun failures of every sort) to marketing — have we asked for them? They post pictures of their children on their first day of school (as if no child has ever gone to school before) or the first day of a new academic year or when the children achieve something significant (hoping that people will believe what great parents they are in raising children who do so well) — do we know half of these children?
Of course, smart readers may well argue that this writer is doing the very same thing that he is criticising by putting his thoughts on a subject out in the media (as opposed to the social media) uninvited (though, for the record, the newspaper has asked for such articles). By doing so, the writer is exposing himself to same criticism he is applying to others. There may be a difference though.
No offence is meant by any such comments; they are not meant as a judgment but are merely observations, which ultimately may be inaccurate. It would all seem to point, however, to the notion that life is all about putting ourselves out there, attracting attention and inviting positive comments and more specifically likes. They want people to see how clever, funny or patriotic we are.
If that is indeed the case, then it is not social media about which we should be concerned; it is the ego mania that shines out from behind it. Some have debated why people have become so egomaniacal, arguing that it is because they feel “insecure, competitive, hardheaded and lack confidence often in their own intellect”. Rather than complain about social media, therefore, perhaps the real focus should be on helping youngsters to have greater self-confidence in who they are (not in what others may think of them), be less competitive when it comes to relationships, and be humble enough not to push themselves forward the whole time. Such traits have deep value.
Finally, when it comes to posting on social media, we should encourage our youngsters to apply the useful acronym of THINK (is it True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary, Kind?) Will we think about that?
- Tim Middleton is the executive director of the Association of Trust Schools [ATS]. The views expressed in this article, however, are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of the ATS.
- Accident, piracy affected my career: Zembe
- Kim Jayde revels in SA award nomination
- Building narratives: Chindiya empowers girls through sports
- Public relations: Which innovations are driving PR in 2022 and beyond?