1st Image Credit: The author (my nephew checking his cell phone!) – 2nd Image Credit: My nephew (selfie!)
People are getting more and more attached to social media, especially our kids and teenagers. Despite the official age limitations for users, more than 50% of children have used at least one platform by the age of ten (more likely Facebook as smartphones aren’t required for its usage). Owning a cell phone/laptop among school kids has become so common, so banal, that not having one seems weird. It used to start with parents thinking the worst drama scenarios of “what if my kid is stuck in an emergency situation where he/she needs a cell phone? Or maybe it might be easier to locate them?” but not so much anymore. It’s just a thing that happens. Two months ago, I traveled to Iran to visit my family. I was shocked when I saw that my lovely eighteen-month-old nephew could easily find apps like Radio Javan on his cell phone to play music he loved. He even knew he had to use his father’s cell phone for specific apps such as YouTube to play videos like Bob The Train (some platforms are banned in Iran and one must have a VPN to be able to use them). This made my jaw drop! However, for the most part, parents, in general, may simply be unable to resist their kids’ persistent claim for the need to own them. This is not like our time when we had kept in queues just to make an emergency call!
To give worried parents due credit in their thinking, one can bring up the case of the 2 girls, Abigail Williams and Liberty German, in Delphi, Indiana, who were murdered by a man back in February. The phones may not have saved their lives, but the parents, knowing the girls were Snapchatting their day while hiking in well-used trails, knew to alert the police when they didn’t show up at the meeting point at the designated time, nor answered their phones. The Snapchat stories gave clues as to where they could be found on the trails and timeframe of when they went missing. When their bodies were recovered, it was found that they had also filmed the man, which has led to a nationwide manhunt in the United States. There is even an accumulated reward of a crowdsourced $200, 000 for whoever helps bring this man to jail. While a happier ending would have been preferred, every element of society’s obsession with smartphones and social media here played a crucial role that will eventually lead to the man’s arrest.
But I digress a bit. Even with all the constant warnings about the destructive effects of social media (such as decreasing kids’ creativity, damaging eyesight, neck and shoulder pains, losing connectivity with family members, sharing too much information, and being bullied, to name a few), it seems playing freely with kids in the neighbourhood at hide and seek, tag, rope games, and others, seems to be fading away in popularity. It’s now the ways of the old, more and more forgotten. I sometimes think this is nobody’s fault. It’s just the way our race, human beings, are. Our greed and covetousness on the one hand, with the inclination for exploration and seeking of technology on the other, are leading us towards a very different destiny.
Image Credit: EuroSTAR
I watched a movie years ago (sorry, can’t recall the name!) about a group of different mutant generations who took over the world. There were almost no humans left, and those who survived became enslaved to the mutants. The poignant factor was that it seemed quite normal to them. Of course, this is an exaggerated example, but when the mutants are interchanged with the internet and, more specifically, social media, the similarities in these perspectives becomes more clear. Social media stages are not just the new trends, they are the new ways of communication and being. Ultimately, the next generations are going to be entirely different in the ways they think, live, and interact. Sometimes I wonder, perhaps the new generations, Gen Alpha and their descendants, just don’t fit in our definition and understanding of living and communicating. They will connect and, possibly, humanize, in a new realm that we may not comprehend properly.
My question is, would that be a concern when they are all going to think similarly?!
Image Credit: IndianAwazz.com