You have probably received the link to this blog post from your favorite social media platform. If you’re sent from heaven, then you’ve probably visited the website to learn more about the club and have come across this short story of the Rotaract Club of Nairobi Central’s evening discussion on the 22nd of September 2020.

I’m sure you have heard or watched the documentary on Netflix “The Social Dilemma”.  If not, do check it out. Turns out a lot of us watched it before the meeting. We can blame that on curiosity. Thirty-seven participants later, we were having a heated discussion that was curated by a loyal guest, Paynette Joan, and our very own Community Service Director, Paul Kuria. (I hope this is an equivalent of a shout out because they did an amazing job.)

The first question of discussion was whether you are the same person online and offline. Are you?

Well, from the discussion there were resounding “aye’s” and “no’s” and the fun began.

The “aye” gave their reasons and the one that stood out was that they are the same since they strive to be true to self and true to God; there is no exception for social media. The “no’s” categorically stated that people cannot be judged by their texts or pictures they put on social media. One particular participant emphasized that they are so much cooler in person. Another mentioned that they are very reserved in person but very active and social online; they are able to speak out on issues easily rather than in person. If you ask me what I think, I would say social media is probably another dimension that humans interact and make friends and enemies in equal measure; it has nothing to do with real life. I might be wrong, but since you didn’t ask, let’s move on to our next question.

Do social media contribute to the way you see the world and most importantly, your life?

Yeah I know, the discourse kept getting deeper.

On the face of it, the “no’s” said that social media doesn’t really affect how they see the world or their lives. They further insisted that everything on social media should be taken with a pinch of salt. Social media is not real life. Life is offline.

The “lukewarm” contributors argued that social media may be used to inform decisions and give certain views of the world that may affect their views on the world but it is definitely not a rule book they would refer to often. The “aye” on the other hand pointed out various situations that social media contributed to how they view the world and the role it plays in their life. A few examples that were given is the life changing knowledge gained on various social platforms; one contributor even said they have gone ahead to do a course based on the knowledge they acquired on a particular social platform.

The travellers were definitely in on this one, everyone who looks to travel anywhere this day and age goes to social media to see what kind of reviews have been given to the places they wish to travel. The technophiles looked up from their screens and said they are always online looking at what people are saying about the latest gadgets they wish to purchase. The “aye’s” were so passionate that they gave a top tip: pick what is relevant and important and leave out the rest.

Just like the tempo of music changes with time at a party the tempo was different as the questions and discussion continued.

If social media was shut down today, how would that affect the quality of your life now and in the future?

The first response shared is one we’ve heard one too many times “it depends” on most especially which platform is shut down. If you have been on social media lately, a part of it can be described as a huge market. Numerous businesses, especially startups, have leveraged on social media as their market. Many people now work online as influencers, which means, social media is their source of bread and butter. If social media was shut down that would be the end of their livelihoods.

The shutdown of social media for other people would also mean a shutdown of their social life. Some would miss their online friends and others would lack a means of communication. Social media, according to them, plays a vital role in connecting with friends. After all, when was the last time you rang a friend?

I don’t remember hearing this but, how would we go back to living without Memes.

A good number of people were very okay with social media being shut down; they said the quality of their life would improve tremendously. Their screen time would reduce, they would learn to live in the moment and just generally be able to shut down the digital noise. One participant stated that it is a long term dream to actually be able to shut down social media by themselves.

The next question created a buzz of attention and very important conversation heard …

If you were to become a remunerated social media influencer, how would this affect your perspective of social media?

The “aye’s”, for obvious reasons, said they would be as active as quicksilver on social media if it meant having a fuller bank account. Others said you don’t say no to business. Others stated it would, however, have to be a brand they have confidence in and like.

It was the “No’s” that had me listening in keenly for this one.

Social media can be a very harsh and hostile environment, and for peace of mind, this particular participant would not take the job. Another stated they would be fired from their places of work as they would not be able to stay active. Some stated that the pressure would be too much and the crazy targets would be a deal breaker for them.

Another reason why a lot of people said no to the online influencing was that this job pulls people you don’t necessarily want into your life and the lines between professional and personal lives become blurry. This is because people start to feel entitled to personal things about you in situations they should mind their business.

Also, there is the danger of losing your personal freedom as you expose your life to the public. This leads to an increase in mental disruption and social pressures to maintain a certain level of life.

The last thing we discussed was individuals who post your photos online without your consent.

Although we agreed to disagree, I will quote a tweet that I recently came across that would put things into perspective.

“Please normalize respecting people’s privacy. If I graduate and didn’t post about it, don’t post about it. If we have a baby and we are not posting our baby, don’t post our baby. Being a close friend or a family member does not give you the right to disrespect my privacy.”

If you enjoyed this discussion and would like to join us on the next one please join our next meeting on   6th   October 2020 for our next meeting.

Article by: Susan K. Maina || Assistant Secretary || Rotaract Club of Nairobi

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