Is there a dark side to social media?
The world’s biggest social media platform is under the spotlight again.
In fact, it has always been at the centre of various kinds of discussions and criticisms since its inception a decade ago.
When I came to know about Facebook and started using it, I was quite amazed by its reach. It was also a platform on which one could spend a great amount of time. However, in a year’s time, I felt naked and exposed to see that whatever I was doing or posting on this social media had various kinds of consequences -- both positive and negative.
I deactivated my account. However, after a year, encouraged by my friends and peers, I started using it again.
Since then, I have reconnected with many old friends with whom I thought it wasn’t possible to be in touch ever in my life, connected with many journalists, writers, and publishers across the world.
I also found some knowledge troves on this site. Since then, I posted all my writings and thoughts in the form of texts on this platform in order let thousands know about me and my work. It has worked to a great extent.
However, I have also found that Facebook has been taking quite a lot of my time away from me, as I have spent many moments browsing this site for unnecessary reasons. I saw others doing the same.
They actually weren’t doing anything on Facebook, but wiling away their time just like someone who doesn’t have anything else to do. Steadily, I started logging onto Facebook less, and decided not to use it on my phone and tablet. Now, I only log in from my laptop.
After more than a decade of its existence, we now have come to know many aspects of Facebook -- how it can be used as well as abused. It can be a great waste of time, it can be a great tool for surveillance, it can provide various kinds of wrong information, and it can spread hate crime and lead to social riots.
It can also be very dangerous for any individual, as the person may not know with whom he or she has connected, and may give out various kinds of personal information.
At present, in our country, two aspects of Facebook are being discussed.
One is: Spending time on Facebook has become an addiction, and two: It has become a tool for spreading wrong information. It is because of the online social environment that governments across the world are being forced to formulate laws about it.
A recent piece of information has stirred my mind in a very different way. A Bangla news daily has come up with a story that said that Bangladesh was experiencing one marital divorce every hour. I think this is an alarming piece of information about our society.
The story gave details of various reasons that men and women have cited while divorcing their partners. One of the reasons on behalf of the men was “addiction to Facebook.” It has come to such a point that it is leading to marital separations.
This phenomenon can easily be understood when we see how people post their food on their profiles. They are doing the most unnecessary things that may not be required in their lives. How come what we had for dinner is news for the hundreds of people we are connected with?
If this is content to broadcast publicly, then we must rethink our attitudes about using this platform. Yes, Facebook has saved us from having to make certain phone calls, but the nonsense that has been going on in this site can hardly be the actions of thinking minds.
At this point, I tend to think that these social media sites have become a social burden. When a marriage is falling apart due to this, there’s certainly reason to worry.
Again, we have all seen how Facebook was abused to spread rumours during the “demand safe roads” campaign in Dhaka. People believed all the thoughtless information that was provided on this platform without verifying the information.
Facebook was an immense hurdle for the government for maintaining law and order at the time. From one person, the fake information had reached millions, and surprisingly, those millions believed them.
It’s not only happening in our country -- the scourge of violence and hate-mongering is taking place across the world in every country. A recent study at the University of Warwick has suggested that there are strong links between anti-refugee violence and Facebook usage in Germany.
According to this study, this site has been a tool to raise anti-refugee violence in that country. The German government has said they will take measures against Facebook.
President Trump in the US has been blaming Facebook for being biased in their policies.
To me, information is OK, but too much information, especially wrong information, can be extremely damaging at the personal and social levels.
We don’t know whether our real life friends are actually our friends on this site.
We can speak volumes about the ills of abusing Facebook, but I think, right at the moment, we need to contemplate our own social media information strategies so that we can be safe from the unknown dangers of a truly unknown environment.
Ekram Kabir is a story-teller and a columnist for Dhaka Tribune.