People nowadays discuss social media as if its a bad thing. At least a majority of the discussions I’ve heard. They talk of how its affecting our social behavior. That though it connects people who are far away, it distances those who are physically together due to everyone being glued to their phones.
While that might be true, or is actually true especially when it comes to family settings , I think for me personally and the people I encounter on social media- it has been of extreme help knowledge wise.
As a friend I follow on Facebook said yesterday, she’s learnt more things from social media than all she ever learnt in the 8-4-4 system. And I could totally relate to that. I studied a course for 4 years in campus, but for some reason, rarely did we relate what we were learning with our current environment. Things were always abstract except that one or 2 lectures who went out of their way to relate what they were teaching with Kenya as of now. Then I spend an year or so on social media and I end up understanding deeply about issues we glossed over in campus. In simple terms, social media especially platforms that allow long discussions such as Facebook and partly twitter, have been my teacher. One who was way more informed and upto date than any education I got elsewhere.
Another benefit of social media, has been bringing me closer to people of the same mind as I. Intellectually and even things I’m passionate about or stuff that interests me. Being in a geographical area with human beings doesn’t always mean our minds connect. Especially where I come from. We greet each other and maybe try our hand at small talk. But for the longest time ever, I remember having to act or put up a performance just to fit in with the people around me. Why? We just didn’t connect. Our focus and priorities in life were on different directions which thus influences the kind of discussions we have or want to hold.
Whereas social media has allowed me to connect to people of the same mind as I. For example, there is a friend of mine who was shocked to learn that those regular travel trips of mine are usually via travel agencies. She had always assumed that the people I take pictures with on top of mountains or in swimming pools were close friends. So on went on the questions, ” how do you meet these people? Do you trust them? How do these travel agencies work? And since they are many how do you choose one? Etc”.
You see, i have always loved travelling. But for my close friends in campus, it was just that thing that Kenyans love to say they love while not necessarily practising it. Its like Kenyan Christians. So for some time I kept on coming up with plans and inviting them. But they could come up with all sorts of excuses to either postpone it or not come.
However, with time, social media exposed me to these other people; people who loved travelling practically. And some entrepreneurs had found a way of bringing us together in the name of local travel agencies. So nowadays I don’t stress about planning for a trip. Unless its a solo trip or with a friend. I simple go to my favorite travel agency’s page, choose wherever I want to go from the various offers, pay up and wait for the material day. Don’t we just thank God for social media!?
And finally, one of things I’m really grateful for from social media is the kind of dialogues and discussions I find in there. I love picking people’s mind. I end up understanding where people with a different opinion are coming from, why people hold the views they do, why they do the things they do, and how we can generally improve our selves. This discussions enrich my life. Like in the morning some Kenyan was wondering why Kenyans celebrate black history month yet it isn’t part of our story. And from the discussion that ensued, I ended up knowing the history of black history month, its impact on Americans and the negative and positive side of that celebration existing in the first place. This are things that don’t affect my daily life, but at least I’m now more knowledgeable from simply reading a few comments. Maybe had I googled it, it wouldn’t have been put in such a simple way and certainly it wouldn’t have had that personal touch to it.
The discussions on feminism, politics, environmental conservation, uthamaki, vulnerability, love, the church, African cultures and indigenous practices, entrepreneurship, friendships, books, sex, food, travel, that I have participated in or followed on Facebook and twitter have enriched me and improved the quality of my understanding and removed a large chunk of the ignorance I carried around. I am a better human being -thanks to social media.
But I admit it wasn’t always that rosy and informative. 3 years ago and before, my social media experience was nothing to brag home about. It was filled with pictures and quotes that didn’t make sense. Twitter was that place people were hyping about while I didn’t see anything good or interesting in there. It was that place I could live for a month without visiting and I would be missing nothing.
But I started being intentional about the kind of things I wanted to see. So slowly by slowly I started unfollowing the nonsense people and interacting with minds I liked. It has taken a while to build the kind of a world I wanted to log into. I may not be there yet, but its slowly becoming a place I feel at home in, where I’m inspired, challenged, accepted, involved, admonished and grown in.
So for those people who look down upon the characters like me who enjoy social media; maybe its because you haven’t found a way of getting the best out of it. Maybe its the kind of interactions that you are having in there that make you wonder why some of us would be proud of being social media users. Or maybe its because you don’t want to get addicted.
Well as much as I agree people do get addicted to social media, I think it depends on why you are in there in the first place. If its majorly for news purposes and to follow how so and so’s life is faring on, then certainly, as sure as the sun rises, you shall get addicted. Why? Because any day or time you miss from a certain platform, you shall suffer from the fear of being left out. Your mind shall remind you that you don’t know how Kenya is going on because you didn’t log in, or you don’t know what Kui ate for breakfast and that’s a bad thing.
For me, I think when I stay for 2 days without social media, I don’t panic because the discussions I shall find will be more richer than had I seen them immediately they are posted. So I think addiction to social media is majorly dependent on the why you are in there in the first place.
Of late I’ve been trying to appreciate the good things in my life, and social media is among the top things I’m really grateful for. I don’t know what kind of a human being i would be without it; and I sincerely don’t want to find out because I fear ignorance. I might be among the few culprits to immensely benefit from social media, but I am grateful to all those spaces people have created on their pages and threads that have enriched my life and made me a better being. Thank you.