Social Media: Have we become a zombie generation?

“I had this guy leave me a voice mail at work so I called him at home and then he e-mailed me to my Blackberry and so I texted to his cell and then he e-mailed me to my home account and the whole thing just got out of control. And I miss the days when you had one phone number and one answering machine and that one answering machine has one cassette tape and that one cassette tape either had a message from a guy or it didn’t. And now you just have to go around checking all these different portals just to get rejected by seven different technologies. It’s exhausting.”

He’s just not that into you

I don’t know about you, but somehow with all the different social platforms’ some of us are beginning to sound like the character Mary from “He’s just not that into you.”

This is not an early morning caffeine rant. I know I would be lost without some of my apps, especially in the times we are living. What pre-empted these thoughts, well I was privy to a chat in the elevator, where an older lady likened us to zombies. A few of us stepped into the lift, selected our respective floors, and buried our heads into our mobiles. She was not afraid to say it to us “you are like zombies, no one greets anymore”, we looked up greeted sheepishly smiled and stood there in total awkwardness. She had touched a nerve and she was a 100% on point.

The “anthropologist” in me, mentioned this incident to several people to get their thoughts on this topic. Have we truly become “Zombies”, disconnected to such an extent that we really do not lift our head from our screens? The response was astounding. Many wish they could go back to simplicity, personally I really don’t know how to go back to basics.

My contributions to online platforms; social networking sites and other literary endeavours has left a digital footprint. I certainly do feel conflicted from time to time; I rather scroll on my phone in queues; doctors waiting room; than initiate a conversation with another person.

I also wish I was Cipher; wipe my digital footprint off the internet and start afresh. There are pro’s and con’s to everything in life. I personally believe it’s about striking a balance. I can put down my phone and not worry about it for a while.

I read an article recently which stated that most adults spend 12 hours a day on various social media platforms. When a survey was done, recently, people look at the screens about 80 times a day. Also interesting to read was that many chose to explore relationships digitally that have a real, live, face-to-face conversation. We don’t talk to each other, we prefer to text even the simplest of requests. People seek instant gratification from these relationships we “build” in the digital sphere. We have taken away the human element of relationships.

But is it all negative, if you see social media and the digital world as an evil, then you will be negative irrespective. I agree that humans were not built to interact in this manners, we are supposed to be social creatures, face to face contact, not screen to screen. I wonder about the connections I have made by just having this footprint, from family ties to friends back home to inspiring peers. I would not have the same contact as I enjoy now, if it were not for these digital platforms.

Is a case of cant live with and can’t live without!

I believe digital advancement has succeeded in building a convenient means of communication which in a way meets our very primitive need, the need to communicate even if we are oceans apart. We cannot ever say we have not heard from friend X or a cousin, because their “telephone” line is down or snail mail has not arrived yet. Social Platforms has made our lives easier yet more complex. It’s the quickest way to get dopamine at your fingertips.

Communication evolution as its best you don’t have to leave your home to interact with another human. We have the ability to connect with so many people from so many walks of life. It’s hard to believe that 14 years ago there was no Facebook or Twitter. People were actually waiting to hear from each other.

I agree that some people don’t know how to use these platforms responsibly and get into all sorts of trouble, like any tool, if you don’t know how to use it you will get hurt. It also depends on what you are looking for, if you are looking for love then you will find it. Some have found their partners on Instagram, Facebook, or Tinder (Yip! Tinder). Some have scars and scary stories. With WhatsApp; it’s just quicker to DM.

Digital spaces are not only for those looking to maintain family/friend ties, business contact or for relationship, great causes have gone viral from this platform Black Lives Matter, #MeToo campaign and other causes. This is the same technology which has helped us to come together when it matters the most.

It’s even made our shopping lives easier especially for those who really don’t like trudging through malls. We can plan an entire trip online after viewing the amazing destinations via social platforms.

I even mentioned to a friend over the weekend that when I do order a take out, I look at the menu online, there was a time; long ago when I would drive to the place, look at the massive menu guide on the wall above the cashier. Now I view it online, order it online, 30 minutes later, I am enjoying my meal and still online chatting to them about this. The only movement was from my comfy couch to the driveway gate to collect the meal. The only interaction was with Uber Eats.

For me, I interact with people all week face to face, my weekends are for recharging, I think I can get away with ordering online without “peopling”. I believe life is about balance. There are negatives and positive ways technology affects us.

So when people tell me that all these social platforms are really bad, I tell them they need to appreciate the positive things, be mindful of the negative, with everything in life, there is good and bad; if it was so bad, then why are they communicating with me via WhatsApp from Durban. If we go back to basics then they should drive to Johannesburg, for face to face time. It’s only bad when it isn’t used correctly and for the purpose it was designed for.


About Saffiya Ismail

Born in Pietermaritzburg, she now resides in Johannesburg and says her most important role in life is being a mother. Saffiya is a freelance writer. A contributing author in “Riding the Samoosa Express” (Anthology launched 21st March 2015). With a second chapter submitted for the next book, Saffiya says her passion is writing.

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