Latest News Editor's Choice

Opinion / Columnist

Social media driving us to doomsday

31 Jan 2021 at 06:51hrs | Views
Bishop Lazi is convinced that nostalgia is a timeless disease.

It is normally associated with selective amnesia and the romanticisation of cherished memories.

This is why it is unsurprising for every generation to believe that it is the only one that lived through the golden years.

And the Bishop is no exception - and for good reason.

During the good old days, back in the village, respect, courtesy, sharing, empathy, integrity, decorum and hard work were the quintessential values of the communalism that defined societies.

These normative values were non-negotiable.

Communities were, therefore, as rich as the richest villager and as wise as the wisest villager.

So strong were bonds that it was not uncommon for families that would have slaughtered livestock to share it with their neighbours, which was always welcome particularly during this time of the season when palates would have been numbed by multiple green veggies that tend to sprout and mushroom with the summer rains.

But it was not always a pleasurable experience.

You see, Bishop Lazi's neighbour was a goat-herder, which meant that every time he slaughtered livestock, it was invariably a goat.

However, he had this unwitting notoriety of slaughtering Billy goats or bucks.

Well, for those who might not know, Billy goats (or male goats) have a peculiar off-putting musky odour - not quite like a skunk - that permeates deep into the animal's skin.

However unwanted this meat was, the dutiful and well-meaning goat-herder, in the spirit of communality and good neighbourliness, was not distracted by these superfluous and nonsensical considerations, and would always come with hindquarters of the slaughtered goats.

This was the spirit that was pervasive in communities during the Bishop's time that made his version of the golden years worthwhile.

Global Village

But we are now told we live in a global village that is connected more than ever before through the Internet.

Information and knowledge is now a click of the button away, while socialising and communication is simpler and cheaper than it was before.

Yet despite having knowledge and information readily available, the current generation is more ignorant than before.

And despite communicating and socialising more, it seems the current generation has actually become more discourteous, caustic, abrasive, disrespectful, unsympathetic, callous and mean-spirited.

Much of this decay in our normative values is being engendered and driven by social media, especially Facebook and Twitter, where people are given the carte blanche - incentivised even - to behave or misbehave as they wish.

Twitter is actually the worst.

Social media has degenerated into a dark alley where cyber gangsters who weaponise untruths, sexism, ageism, bigotry and misogyny are always on the prowl.

In fact, for Bishop Lazarus, it is, as it has always been, more like a raw sewer - occasionally there is the odd likelihood of finding lost valuables, but essentially the bulk of the content in this cesspool is filthy and foul-smelling faecal matter.

The toxicity is almost apocalyptic.

2 Timothy 3: 1-5 warns: "But realise this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these."


One of the key natural laws of the universe is that if you sow the wind, you naturally reap a whirlwind.

Social media continues to sow online tribalism and we are now living with the fallout therefrom, especially with the recent unprecedented scenes of violence in the United States capitol.

But experts who previously worked for these technological behemoths have been sounding the alarm on the possible "extreme outcomes" of the polarisation that is being insidiously and assiduously promoted on these platforms.

One of these experts is Tim Kendall - Moment CEO and former director of Facebook monetisation from 2006 to 2010 - who raised the red flag through his Netflix documentary "The Social Dilemma".

In his subsequent interview with American television channel Fox News, Kendall's warning couldn't have been starker and prophetic.

"There are studies that show false information or fake news spreads six times faster online than accurate information. The attention-based business model of social media companies perpetuates outlandish, extreme, and controversial content that tends to receive more clicks and views. Content laced with misleading information that undermines faith in elections and other institutions vital to democracy is particularly dangerous for our society," he said.


"I truly believe things will not get better until tech companies move away from creating exploitative products that drive conflict over conversation, division over unity, and misinformation over truth.

Extreme outcomes are the logical end conclusion if there is no action on social media reform during the increasing destabilisation of civil society."

While those who used to disguise the unbridled power and influence of these platforms by claiming that they were bastions of libertarian principles of free speech and net neutrality constantly fed us the argument that online toxicity was fairly innocuous, we now know that this is clearly not the case.

The image of Trump supporters, the majority of whom had been radicalised online, storming the US capital on January 6 delivered the message home.

And United Kingdom (UK)'s Prince Harry recently came to the same conclusion.

"There is no way to downplay this. There was a literal attack on democracy in the United States, organised on social media, which is an issue of violent extremism . . .

"We are losing loved ones to conspiracy theories, losing a sense of self because of the barrage of mistruths, and, at the largest scale, losing our democracies," he observed.

As Bishop Lazi always says, China managed to pre-empt all this nonsense by adopting its own model to ensure that its online platforms are utilitarian rather than convenient weapons to promote divisions.

Egypt's president Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has been particularly tough on online delinquencies.

On March 18, the North African country, which is no stranger to radical groups angling to control the levers of power, passed laws that give the state power to block social media accounts with more than 5 000 followers that are viewed as threats to national security.

The Supreme Media Regulatory Council - the regulator - also has the power to block websites and accounts for fake news and impose punitive penalties of up to US$14 000 without a court order.

Also media companies that continue to hawkishly - pun intended - publish "offending material" risk fines of up to US$298 000.

This tough law also outlaws "anything inciting violating the law, public morals, racism, intolerance, violence, discrimination between citizens and hatred".

With the exception of social botnets manipulated by computers, there are men of flesh and blood behind social media accounts.

As in real life, they too have to be accountable for the actions.

We urgently need to control the Internet before it controls or is used to control our lives.

Bishop out!

Source - sundaymail
All articles and letters published on Bulawayo24 have been independently written by members of Bulawayo24's community. The views of users published on Bulawayo24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Bulawayo24. Bulawayo24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.