When social media users turn asocial

31Dec 2016
Francis Semwaza
The Guardian
When social media users turn asocial

WHILE new media in its singularity has been tightening its grip across the ages of its various users now that many people have subscribed to the platforms,-

the developments raise concerns over the ensuing consumerism that drives the majority of new media users into poverty.

People would likely become slaves of technology while overlooking other important endeavours and priorities, such as health, agricultural production and education, best suited for individuals and institutional efforts at poverty reduction.

Given their level of awareness, most social media users are likely to crave to possess high-tech gadgets to be able to post photos on entertainment new media platforms while forgetting the pressing needs like sending children to school or buying health insurance.

This is especially true when one examines cellphone ownership and usage among people who have subscribed to three or four new media platforms, especially photo-oriented channels such as SnapChat or Instagram.

It could be even more worrying from the economics point of view as to the returns the subscribers to such channels generate out of their mere attachment.

Although some may exploit the avenues as marketing opportunities for whatever businesses they may own, the culture of not accounting for profit and loss among Tanzanians and most people worldwide makes it harder to evaluate if new media users have been using the platforms profitably.

The profit-and-loss accounting challenge becomes even more complex amid the culture of buying what is fostered by new technologies, forcing some customers to buy devices just because they were smartly advertised.

Consumers especially the youth, would struggle to buy a new gadget release, of say a cellphone, only for the ability of the camera to capture and produce fine images that they could post on Instagram or any other photo-based social media.

It is for that reason, for example, that mobile phone manufacturers have to stay on their toes working on yearly releases that would slightly differ from the previous versions in order to tap new market.

Therefore, one is more likely than not, to be absorbed and taken for granted by the mobile phone market dealers whose their so-called improved version product would last hardly six months before it is slightly modified sold at a higher price.

It has been a tradition for example for large, and perhaps manufacturers of the most expensive cellphone brands like iPhone and Samsung, to have at least two releases of the brands every year and using aggressive approaches to market the products across the globe.

As it has been reported on numerous occasions that quite a number of people would even queue in stores in a thirst for early minority status in the gadget ownership in what media and communications theorists like Alexis Tan would describe as ‘the quest for being current and up-to-date’.

While a decision to buy a new gadget is an individual choice, it remains important for one to be informed enough considering the consequences.

Some would in the past shun their kids away from school under the pretext they could afford Sh20,000 annual fee, but would, without a second thought, buy a smartphone worth Sh300,000, not mention the more expensive iPhone and some Samsung brands that could cost millions of shillings.

It is not surprising either that members of a family would buy such phones several times a year, but reluctant to send their children to school or to sufficiently feed the household.

Adversely moreover, while people in the developed world where innovation and manufacturing is centered have the opportunity for free maintenance and to exchange their phones with the new releases by adding only a few more dollars, the people in poor countries like Tanzania have to throw their expensive gadgets away since their repairs could the price of a new one.

Should the situation be as such, it can rightly be surmised that new media technology condemns thoughtless people to useless consumerism and poverty by virtue of becoming easy prey of the world of advertisement.

They are lured into frequent and unnecessary buying culture and have their brains doomed into failure to make priority over exactly where their money should go.

This affects not only a common man, but an educated one who seems to attach education to the prestige of leading a flashy lifestyle no matter the cost.

The mentioned consumer behaviour where spending sprees are involved poses a serious threat to people’s welfare especially with low earnings typical of the developing countries.

Alongside education and constantly reminding the people of the need to set priorities and minimizing the cost of entertainment-related activities including social media usage, the situation also calls for entrepreneurs to help the people make an effective use of the platforms

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