Did Smartphones and Social Media Deplete our Humaneness?

Did Social Media and Smartphones Deplete our Humaneness?

Did Smartphones and Social Media Deplete our Humaneness?

Humaneness is described as the sympathetic concern for the well-being of others in the English dictionary. It can also be said to be the quality of consideration or compassion for others. In Ren (Confucianism), humaneness is defined as Human-ness, the essence of the being human. And it further says the way of humaneness is human interaction. I am going to be focusing on the human interaction part. How much do we interact physically with each other in this new social media era? Why have smartphones depleted our human interaction with others and our environment?

In this social media era, with smartphones becoming widely available at affordable prices, and internet data bundles and subscription getting cheaper, physical human interaction has been suffering. The way people (especially teenagers and youths – even some adults) are always immersed in their phones and the internet instead of connecting with the people around them in their environment is becoming alarming. The importance of the internet and social media cannot be overemphasized, but the adverse effects it is having on us should not be neglected.

There is a lot that can be learned on the internet. My own personal quote is that “you would be overwhelmed by the information on the internet”. We also connect and network on the social media, but at what cost? If you walk into a fast food restaurant or a beer parlour or bar right now, you would see people on the same table with their faces glued to their private smartphones trying to upload pictures they’d just snapped in their latest environment to Facebook, SnapChat, WhatsApp stories and Instagram. This little gesture of using the phone instead of focusing on bonding with the people you are out with is harmful. In fact, it is dangerous, and these actions need to be cautioned.

Imagine I am out on a date with my girlfriend. I am trying to reply my messages on WhatsApp and Telegram, while she is busy moderating her notifications on Facebook. This clearly shows that we are spending time together but we are not actually together. We are living in a world where constant seeking of likes, reactions and comments on our social media contents is more important than going out and meeting people for real. We have replaced the normal reality with virtual reality. Girls now feel obliged to wake up each morning, bath, makeup and dress-up in different dresses just to snap pictures in various poses and upload on the social media. This does mean they are leaving their homes. Boys are out in a joint or location and they are constantly updating their statuses to their online friends/followers just for show. Girls are out on a date night and are busy chatting with some strangers online.

It is more comfortable for people to pour out their minds on the social media to people who literally do not care, instead of sharing their thoughts with close family members and friends. Now, people assume they know a lot about you when they visit your social media profile and timelines. We are eager to share recent happenings in our lives first on the social media, whereas, our friends and family members may only get to know about these things if they are friends with us on our social media. The number of time husbands and wives spend connecting with their online friends on the social media, with children also addicted to the nice games on smartphones; families miss unique opportunities to further bond and connect physically. What we have now is children being trained by the internet and getting pressured by peers on the social media. We can’t ignore the pornography and other illicit contents that should be controlled by parents on children’s smartphones, but because the parents are also busy on their own social media platforms to notice, nobody checks the children.

In most of the recent suicide cases, investigations always tend to show suicide victims had been dropping hints about their problems on social media platforms long before they take their own lives. Their posts show different patterns of stress and depression. All these signs may never be picked up by close friends and family members in real life. This is exactly one area where Facebook founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg had been trying to correct on his social media platform. He recently announced the recruitment of Facebook platform monitors who would monitor contents on the platform, and where one is found to be suicidal suggestive, they quickly offer help, either by alerting closest friends on the network or having one speak a guidance counsellor who is a depression expert.

During my second year in the university, I had a love interest in another student who lived very close to me. She was a friend to my friend’s girlfriend. So, we always hang out with each other since we share the same circle of friends, but we never greeted or talked to each other ( 1-on-1 ). Later, I got her Facebook contact and reached her online. We chatted for many weeks but still wouldn’t greet each other in real life. This continued for few months till I was been mocked by friends to meet her physically, and when I eventually did meet her, after some more back and forth issues, she finally considered me for a love relationship. In the following weeks that followed, we both still find it easier communicating on Facebook instead of meeting. This same Facebook that facilitated our relationship became our first major source of friction. We both were trying to control what we do on the social media platform without any influence. She wouldn’t let me tag her on my posts because she was wary of the attention the posts will get, especially from her family members. I, on the other hand, wanted to show off my girlfriend to the world. She is also constantly going through my Facebook inbox messages. The insecurities of the social media just didn’t let us enjoy our relationship properly.

I wake up daily and the first thing I grab is my smartphone. I quickly check my social media platforms’ notifications, refresh my email app, reply messages, update new status, and start to digest all news and information I need for the day, from one blog to another blog. I have email subscriptions with Forbes, Huffington Post, New York Times, The Economist and so on. I will visit Linda Ikeji’s blog for gossips, then Naij for latest stories and Ogbongeblog for the latest blog tips and more. When I also use the toilet, I am always on the phone chatting. After assimilating all the information I could, I start to form my own opinions on the subject matters, write and post on my Facebook timeline. When I am eating, I am chatting. Only when I bath that I do not use the phone, and even at that, I play music from the phone. When I am in the public transport, I have earphones plugged in and on Twitter catching up with the trending news.

Now, I barely read hardcover books because I am always on my smartphone. Researchers say the attention span of online readers is very short. People scan contents and get bored easily. Yet, millions are on the internet just browsing through zillions of web pages. Some bags now come with fitted power bank chargers for smartphones. Some people will go to any length to charge their phones and will not even care to do the little things that matter to those around them.  

Another baffling bad habit of the millennial smartphones users is the needs to take pictures first before offering help. There have been many occasions where accidents have occurred, and instead, for the people around to offer instant help, their first reactions would be to retrieve their phones, take couple pictures, record a video, and post on all social media networks. It is now very easy to go viral on the internet. The accident victims – because of lack of prompt response end up dead on in grave severe conditions – which are due to the negligence of the first responders who opted to use their phones first.

Going viral can now happen within a few hours – that’s how far the social media is now so powerful. There have been many occasions where viral posts have been of help, like in cases of missing people or criminals on a wanted list, but in other cases, it has been the opposite. Ex-lovers now use the internet as a revenge channel where their previous lovers’ personal details and nudes can be posted online as a vengeful act. The easiness of blackmailing and threatening other social media users has also been rife. Cloning and hacking of social media accounts to reveal personal details that could lead to physical harm on the owners are also growing.

How can we solve this problem of overindulgence in smartphones and negligence of humans and the environment? Drop your suggestions in the comment section.


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