By Henry Olamiju
“You do something long enough to escape the habit of living until the escape becomes the habit” ~ David Ryan
Do you have a child who seems to spend all the time in the world logged on to mobile devices? Or is it that you just can’t have a peaceful family time with any of your kids without them grabbing their phones and punching keys from time to time? Is your child experiencing poor academic performances in recent times and it coincides with when you got him a mobile device or started paying internet subscription for his laptop?
If you are one of the above or have something similar to these, then welcome to the GWTFY generation!
It is definitely now cliché to say the world is a global village. Day by day technological advances push people more and more into other people’s lives and information now travels at the speed of Google. What – in the 1950s – would have been an obscure event in the backsides of a country, can now get audience and crisp viewership of up to a billion people within days. No thanks to the internet, or more succinctly, social media technologies.
Social media is no longer a concept, it is a force; it is not anymore a term to describe a medium of expression, it is now a vital component of the fabric of most societies; no longer can it be seen as a profession or career – like the print media is – it is a culture as well as a global lifestyle. It can’t be ignored, it can’t be fully explained and it definitely cannot be underestimated.
Just as in the industrial age when the drive was to own machines and factories, the drive today is to be on social media; but unlike the former, it is within the reach of all and defies the boundaries of ethnicity, language, colour, creed, social standing, education, government affiliations etc.
No doubt social media has brought great gains to the world we live in and has dramatically changed the landscape with respect to freedom of speech, access to information, productivity, capitalism, terrorism, civil rights etc. Imagine how many books Wikileaks would have had to smuggle physically and publish for us to know the secrets of the powers that be? Imagine how much difficult or impossible the Egyptian Revolution of 2012 would have been if the moderators needed to ride horses (or camels or even cars as the case may be) to disseminate information like the Fathers of the American Revolution had to do in the late 1700s? Yes social media has done the world a lot of good.
Yet, while the forces of good keep trying to advance the cause of humanity, the forces of evil almost always love to put spins on the story-lines. The mob action of 2011 in UK that led to destruction and looting of shops in the UK was planned and coordinated via the help of social media applications. Countless numbers of people have been lured into slavery, prostitution, rape and some were led to their deaths via the help of these same apps.
Long gone are the days when meeting new friends meant having to go out more often and sharpening your social skills which include (but not limited to) appearance, grooming, intelligence, general knowledge, confidence, self esteem etc Now, to have more friends, one just needs a mobile device (phones, tablets, notebooks, laptops etc) and one can acquire thousands and thousands of ‘friends’ that one would probably never ever meet in real life.
We are in the Google Wikipedia Twitter Facebook Youtube (GWTFY) generation. Everything and I mean literarily everything is within reach of anybody between these five apps. More and more people find new lives on social media, lives that might be outside their reach in the real world. On social media, a poor high school teenager can transform (albeit falsely) to a highly successful, round-the-world-tripping, twenty-four year old. That new life is an escape from the failings of the present life; they get to live a world that a few decades before only existed in peoples’ minds. Who wouldn’t want to spend more time in a realm of ‘success’?
Do you find yourself fidgetting often when you’re not around your phone or mobile device? Do you find it boring driving with your two hands on the steering wheel but feel happy again with your mobile phone in one hand? Or do you find it frustrating to have verbal conversations with colleagues at work but feel ‘normal’ when interacting with online ‘friends’? Maybe you find yourself constantly reaching for phone to post an update or tweet at the slightest stimulus reaching your five senses? If one belongs to any of the scenarios or similar ones aforementioned, one may need to review one’s personality traits professionally and identify the possible shortcomings of one’s present earthly existence.
In January 2011, the University of Bergen, Norway conducted a study (first of its kind) on Facebook addiction (and this can probably be applied to other social media apps) and came out with a ‘Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale’ which was published in the renowned Psychology site –> http://www.amsciepub.com/doi/abs/10.2466/02.09.18.PR0.110.2.501-517
The scale employed six criteria which comprise:
1. You spend a lot of time thinking about Facebook or plan use of Facebook.
2. You feel an urge to use Facebook more and more.
3. You use Facebook in order to forget about personal problems.
4. You have tried to cut down on the use of Facebook without success.
5. You become restless or troubled if you are prohibited from using Facebook.
6. You use Facebook so much that it has had a negative impact on your job/studies.
The criteria are scored on the following scale: (1) Very rarely, (2) Rarely, (3) Sometimes, (4) Often, and (5) Very often. Scoring ‘often’ on at least four of the criteria suggest strong Facebook dependency.
As adults, it maybe difficult to accept that one is addicted to and dependent upon something as intangible as ‘online presence’, but the reality is that many of us are. As with all issues related to the mind, insight (knowledge and acceptance of the problem) is a key factor in overcoming it. They say that the way to overcome one addiction is to replace it by another (constructive) one. That may work in the immediate but long-term solution comes from strong decisions about one’s personal productivity as opposed to the productivity of the organisation one is affiliated to.
How do you know your child is getting detrimentally hooked to Facebook or any other social media platform? Here are some suggestions:
a. Spends more time with mobile devices than all the time spent interacting with all the family members,
b. Prefers to eat alone in the bedroom rather than at the dining table,
c. Cannot be without phone for an hour, mood changes if phone gets missing or battery fails or even if phone was left at home (which is almost impossible).
d. Family prayer time is severally interrupted by notification alerts from mobile phones
e. Academic performance falls inexplicably from time to time.
How do you get your teenager off facebook? There’s no silver bullet, no magic wand or secret concoction I have to prescribe. The answer is in the escapism. Make them what they aspire/pretend to be on those social media sites.
It definitely won’t be easy yanking a teenager who has been hooked off facebook. It will require tact, politics, discipline as well as commitment on your part.
If you’re expecting your child to still remain ambitious, competitive and technology-savvy then confiscating the mobile device is not a way to go. It is at best counterproductive and at worst a ground for rebellion. In doing that, you may win the battle but lose the war.
My plan is a ‘Cold-War Strategy’. It is not a war with your child but rather a war against the invasion of your child’s life by mobile apps.
The plan includes strategies that help you get your child away from the mobile device without allowing the child realise that is your intention. It is a gradual, subtle interruption of the romance between your child and the device while you make that interruption a profitable one for the child.
For example, you buy your child a book(or books) to read and ask that the child do a summary of the book(s) within a certain period and give a worthwhile reward for the activity. Make the child believe that (s)he’s doing it for the greater good of humanity or something like that. Get them more involved in house chores and make sure you have a no-device night once or twice a week and make sure they enjoy it (go to the cinema, share goodies, small pop quiz, board games etc).
The most important thing to do however is to make sure you find a sense of purpose in your life and make your children realise that too in themselves. Give them interesting roles to play at home that make them feel responsible, loved and wanted as well.
What parents can’t model for their kids, they should not expect from them. If you don’t have a library, how do you expect your children to love to read? If one doesn’t have a strong work ethic, how can one pass the ‘dignity of labour’ concept to the children? If parents are battling alcohol, cigarette or drug addiction, how can they get their children off social media addiction?
Whether young or old, addiction is a symptom and I like a quote I found on the net that describes it a such:
“Addiction is a symptom of not growing up. I know people think it’s a disease… If you have a brain tumor, if you have cancer, that’s a disease. To say that an addiction is a disease is not fair to the real diseases of the world.” ~ C. C. Deville
So, except one works on social media and derives economic gains from it, there are just two words to say:
Follow me: @holamiju