Everyone, and I mean, everyone I know is using Twitter, blog, Facebook, Instagram. Everyone. (An exaggeration). And I barely made it. (A reality). I thought I could just make a really slow unassuming half-hearted start, and begin with, say, Friendster and work my way and enthusiasm up to it.
But noooo. I’ve got to jump in and quick, for the train has already left the station. I harboured serious reservations why anyone would want to blog things of absolutely no interest to the vast majority; and how does the world become better because of what someone ate for breakfast? But some human mysteries remain as contradictions and puzzlements.
Recently I found someone who expressed my very sentiments. Peter White wrote: “I haven’t got a computer, but I was told about Facebook and Twitter and am trying to make friends outside Facebook and Twitter while applying the same principles.
“Every day, I walk down the street and tell passers-by what I have eaten, how I feel, what I have done the night before and what I will do for the rest of the day. I give them pictures of my wife, my daughter, my dog and me gardening and on holiday, spending time by the pool. I also listen to their conversations, tell them I ‘like’ them and give them my opinion on every subject that interests me…whether it interests them or not.
“And it works! I already have four people following me: two police officers, a social worker, and a psychiatrist.”
Which brings me to Nomophobia. It sounds familiar, almost like an old friend. But it describes a rather recent phenomenon. It expresses the fear of not having one’s mobile phone handy or being unable to locate one’s phone or being denied the use of it temporarily. It’s short for “No-mobile-phone-phobia”.
And if checking your phone is the first and last thing you do each day, then it’s practically a medical condition – it’s a blooming addiction. One UK study even found that the typical city folk refers to the phone 50 times a day!
First the phone; then the world! Did Alexander Graham Bell envisage all this domination? Interestingly, “Bell considered his most famous invention an intrusion on his real work as a scientist and refused to have a telephone in his study” (Wikipedia). Good on you, Alex! But you lost in a race you didn’t even know you were running (to quote Homer of the legendary animated show “The Simpsons”).
There was a time when the Phone and the Computer were unlinked. But now twinned, they open vast vistas of possibilities limited only by imagination. You can almost hear the stewardess at touchdown intone with a tinge of relief: “Welcome to the world of Social Media. We have landed in Connectivity and Capacity beyond our wildest dreams.”
Wild? Yes, even to the fringes of unsuspected danger.
Among other things, according to some researchers, too frequent use of smartphones can lead to cancer over years. “Smartphone Kills Your Short-Term Memory” screams another warning. In addition, excessive phone use can interfere with our sleep cycles.
Miriam Slozberg cautions: “We know that the benefits of using Social Media are profound. Through social networking, many businesses have grown, and individual users have blossomed many great friendships and found support when needed. Social Media can be a huge blessing. However, at the same time, if you are not careful with how you use it, Social Media can be a huge curse.”
Apparently what we post on Social Media is never lost (shades of “once saved, always saved”?) She adds: “What you put out in your social networks is out there forever. Just imagine a potential employer or collaborator reading a Facebook post of you ranting about how you hate life or using every curse word in the book – you can kiss your opportunity goodbye.”
The “Delete” button is misleading once “Send” has been pressed.
Truly, here’s the gift that keeps on giving … even when we don’t want any more of it, thank you. But as the British say so well, “in for a penny, in for a pound”. And what a pounding it has been.
Matthew 12:36 (KJV): “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.”
Idle words? Hmmm. Hitting the nail, right on the head. No exaggeration. Enough said.
Dr Andrew Goh is the honorary editor of IMPACT Magazine