We are not slaves of social media

In February 2004, in Cambridge, Massachusetts in the US, Facebook was founded. This application has since revolutionalised human interaction in ways that were unimaginable before.

However, a former Facebook executive, Chamath Palihapitiya, in December 2017, speaking at Stanford Business School, said that he feels a lot of guilt for being part of a tool that is immensely destroying the social fabric of how society operates and urges everyone to take a long break from social media.

In an article in the Verge, an American technology and media network where his talk is quoted, Chamath says social media is, to a large extent, a process of programming people, even though this was unintentional.

Well, his suggestion that people stop using Facebook sounds out of touch. At a time when even churches use the platform to reach out to believers, is it possible for anyone, especially young people, to stay away from Facebook?

Data from Global Stats, Stat counter places the percentages of people on social media in Kenya as at Dec 2017 at 71 per cent on Facebook, 10 per cent on Pinterest, 9 per cent on Twitter, 3 per cent on Reddit and just 1 per cent on Instagram!

This week, myNetwork speaks to young people who are not on popular social media platforms, especially Facebook. We bring the Chamath concerns closer home and examine the issues that he raises within our own contexts.

Why are they no longer on Facebook? Is it just due to puritanical, personal reasons? And does Chamath’s concerns have any relevance to our immediate world?

What do you think about social media, generally?

Social Media has become a very powerful tool for almost everything these days, be it politics or business.

Though it has its pros and cons, I still would prefer a world without it because in the process of using it, human beings have lost their human touch.

There is a lot of animosity in people hiding behind keyboards that comes through on social media. I have been a victim of cyber bullying, impersonation and character assassination.

Also, many are living fake lives on social media just to impress their peers, which doesn’t make sense. I must however point out that it is through social media that I have been able to grow as a motivational speaker.

How long were you on Facebook? 

Obviously, Facebook was the first platform that I got onto - that was more than nine years ago. I decided to delete it because I felt that the space was too crowded. I am just getting on with Twitter. I find it to be a very great platform, especially for official communication and news updates. My experience with Instagram is not too bad either.

Surely you are not on Facebook just because it is crowded?

I was also tired of the fake accounts created using my profile. Also, the cases of character assassination were getting too much, so I felt the best thing to do was to get off the platform. After I made the decision to stay away from Facebook and use other platforms, I got too comfortable and just never went back.

Do you ever feel that you are missing out by not being on it?

Not at all, because in one way or another, I still get the information that I need from other sources. In fact it gave me peace. I freed myself from all the animosity and fake lives many people peddle on the platform.

Do you ever get pressured/feel pressured by your colleagues or friends or situations to be on Facebook? 

My only pressure came when trying to explain to those who know me the reason I quit; I lost some friends who thought I was ignoring them.

What do you have to say to other young people who feel pressured to be as ‘fabulous’ as their friends on social media platforms?

Pin point the main reason you are on social media. Secondly, understand that social media is not a competition, and that probably 90 per cent of what people post there is fake.

Decide what platform you will benefit from most and go for it. And for those who have gone through bad experiences on social media such as cyber bullying, like I did, its best to boldly talk about it and seek help.