The many faces of so­cial me­dia:

The tem­po­rary hike of mo­bile data tar­iffs this week, re­versed smartly on Thurs­day, was met with a con­sol­i­dated out­cry by so­cial me­dia users across the coun­try about to be charged more for gos­sip.

The Herald (Zimbabwe) - - Front Page - Life­style Writ­ers

THERE was a great sigh of re­lief on Thurs­day when In­for­ma­tion Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Tech­nol­ogy, Postal and Courier Ser­vices Min­is­ter Supa Mandi­wanzira an­nounced a sus­pen­sion of the tar­iff hikes. More jokes about the is­sue made rounds. This time the peo­ple were laugh­ing with re­lief, not for re­lief.

The out­cry just showed how much Zim­bab­weans have em­braced the growth of tech­nol­ogy. In­ter­net ac­cess has be­come a part of life, es­pe­cially in ur­ban com­mu­ni­ties.

Peo­ple across so­cial di­vides re­quire the in­ter­net for sev­eral pro­fes­sional and per­sonal rea­sons.

How­ever, what was con­spic­u­ous in the out­cry over tar­iff hikes were the flames ig­nited by so­cial me­dia users. The ma­jor­ity of ar­gu­ments and jokes in­di­cated that most peo­ple were wor­ried about im­pend­ing lim­ited ac­cess to their so­cial me­dia plat­forms.

Al­though most com­pa­nies now use so­cial me­dia for mar­ket­ing, it was ap­par­ent that most pro­test­ers were wor­ried about ac­cess to their plat­forms of so­cial in­ter­ac­tion.

It en­hanced com­mon phe­nom­e­non about peo­ple seek­ing in­ter­net ac­cess more for so­cial and per­sonal rea­sons than pro­fes­sional obli­ga­tions.

It is a widely-known fact that so­cial me­dia have be­come plat­forms of so­cial­i­sa­tion to an ex­tent that has threat­ened the phys­i­cal fam­ily in­ter­ac­tion.

New fam­i­lies have emerged on so­cial me­dia groups. Bi­o­log­i­cal fam­i­lies have also cre­ated groups to en­hance their com­mu­ni­ca­tion in the face of con­straints of lo­ca­tion dis­tances be­tween fam­ily mem­bers.

Work­mates, church mates, neigh­bours, school­mates, fam­i­lies and many other so­cial groups are now com­fort­able in the so­cial me­dia zone that has changed a lot about the way peo­ple in­ter­act.

What­sApp, Face­book, in­sta­gram and twit­ter have be­come sources of in­ter­ac­tions as well as fast means of com­mu­ni­cat­ing.

So­cial me­dia has cre­ated “cy­ber-fam­i­lies” and it is ap­par­ent that these plat­forms are more pow­er­ful than phys­i­cal com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

So­cial me­dia users that spoke to this pub­li­ca­tion said the plat­forms were im­por­tant as­pects of their life­styles.

“I am now used to so­cial me­dia. I can­not live with­out it and I was not happy when the tar­iff hikes were an­nounced. I was so re­lieved when the gov­ern­ment sus­pended the hikes. Be­sides do­ing busi­ness on so­cial me­dia, I get to in­ter­act with fam­ily and friends. I am a mem­ber of many groups and I am part of the so­cial me­dia fam­ily,” said In­no­cent Chakari of High­field.

An­other so­cial me­dia user, Sherlen Kun­zwana said, he does not use so­cial me­dia for pro­fes­sional rea­sons, but it keeps her close to her fam­ily and friends.

“These days are dif­fer­ent from the pre­vi­ous years when peo­ple had to take many days to com­mu­ni­cate. Now we can com­mu­ni­cate in­stantly with friends and rel­a­tives from any part of the world. That com­mu­ni­ca­tion is ba­sic and im­por­tant. I was so dis­ap­pointed when the tar­iffs were hiked be­cause I felt plucked from my so­cial re­la­tions. I am now happy the old tar­iffs are back,” she said.

David Tandi from Avon­dale said dis­cussing so­cial is­sues on so­cial me­dia kept him abreast with the so­ci­ety around him. He said he has met new friends and en­hanced re­la­tions that he al­ready has. How­ever, he be­moaned abuse of so­cial me­dia by some peo­ple that pro­mote hate lan­guage.

“It is all good when we make friends and talk good things with our rel­a­tives but it is wor­ry­ing when peo­ple use the plat­forms to at­tack each other.

“I be­lieve there should be some form of reg­u­la­tion but I think such plat­forms should al­ways be ac­ces­si­ble at af­ford­able rates. Who can live with­out new tech­nol­ogy these days? It is part of life and re­stric­tions are not wel­come,” said Tandi.

Char­ity Moyo who runs a shop in the city cen­tre said the only dis­ad­van­tages of so­cial me­dia is the way fam­i­lies have been bro­ken through the plat­forms.

“Ev­ery day we read in the pa­pers about leaked What­sApp con­ver­sa­tions of in­fi­delity and leaked nude pic­tures. Peo­ple abuse so­cial me­dia to do all sorts of things yet these plat­forms should be put to good use.

“Fam­i­lies and friends now live separately due to re­lo­ca­tions and such plat­forms make it easy to com­mu­ni­cate. I am happy the gov­ern­ment has pro­tected us from greedy mo­bile com­pa­nies that want to milk sub­scribers,” said Moyo.

Tari­sai Chizema who works for a lo­cal travel agent is of the view that so­cial me­dia can dis­rupt pro­duc­tiv­ity in var­i­ous sec­tors, es­pe­cially at the work­place.

“So­cial me­dia is good when used for good things and bad when used for bad things.

“I have vis­ited many work­places were you find peo­ple spend­ing much of their time on so­cial me­dia. I see it as a habit that ham­pers pro­duc­tiv­ity. Even maids and gar­den­ers that we leave at home may fail to de­liver as ex­pected be­cause of so­cial me­dia. I love the plat­forms though. They keep us con­nected,” she said.

On the other hand tra­di­tion­al­ists ar­gue that the prac­tice is killing im­por­tant phys­i­cal in­ter­ac­tion, es­pe­cially in fam­ily set-ups.

Tra­di­tion­al­ists might have a point in re­gards to the harm that so­cial me­dia has on fam­i­lies. The young peo­ple spend more time in­ter­act­ing with friends on so­cial me­dia and ig­nore fam­ily in­ter­ac­tions.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­search by psy­chol­o­gist Dr Jim Tay­lor, new tech­nol­ogy of­fers chil­dren in­de­pen­dence from their par­ents’ in­volve­ment in their so­cial lives, with the use of mo­bile phones, in­stant mes­sag­ing, and so­cial net­work­ing sites.

“Of course, chil­dren see this techno- log­i­cal di­vide be­tween them­selves and their par­ents as free­dom from over-in­volve­ment and in­tru­sion on the part of their par­ents in their lives. Par­ents, in turn, see it as a loss of con­nec­tion to their chil­dren and an in­abil­ity to main­tain rea­son­able over­sight, for the sake of safety and over-all health, of their chil­dren’s lives,” notes Dr Tay­lor.

At the same time, per­haps a bit cyn­i­cally, chil­dren’s time-con­sum­ing im­mer­sion in tech­nol­ogy may also mean that par­ents don’t have to bother with en­ter­tain­ing their chil­dren, leav­ing them more time to them­selves.

“Chil­dren’s ab­sorp­tion in tech­nol­ogy, from tex­ting to play­ing video games, does by their very na­ture limit their avail­abil­ity to com­mu­ni­cate with their par­ents.”

One study found that when the work­ing par­ent ar­rived home af­ter work, his or her chil­dren were so im­mersed in tech­nol­ogy that the par­ent was greeted only 30 per­cent of the time and was to­tally ig­nored 50 per­cent of the time.

An­other study re­ported that fam­ily time was not af­fected when tech­nol­ogy was used for school, but did hurt fam­ily com­mu­ni­ca­tions when used for so­cial rea­sons.

In­ter­est­ingly, chil­dren who spent con­sid­er­able time on a pop­u­lar so­cial net­work­ing site in­di­cated that they felt less sup­ported by their par­ents.

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