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Opinions of Friday, 2 October 2015

Columnist: Ajoa Yeboah-Afari

Social Media? Please count me out!

A Few weeks ago, when the ‘Forum’ page of this paper posed the whimsical question, ‘How long can you go without your smartphone?’, the responses of interviewees summed up the addictive power of that gadget so symbolic of the technological advances of the present.

All of them confessed their total dependence on their smartphones. Indeed, of the seven people interviewed in the September 4 issue – four women and three men – only one indicated that when necessary she could live without it for some time.

The responses included: “I don’t think I can go without (it) for even a minute”; “Life is more interesting with smartphones”; and, simply: “God bless the one who invented it.” I guess that sums up the attraction of the digital era, the hold that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has on lives. People want to be trendy.

And, obviously, to these self-confessed addicts, the high cost of the smartphone is no problem!

Of course the benefits of ICT, notably the Internet, far outweigh its negatives. Now even kindergarten mites understand ICT, but I confess that I was a late convert, even to mobile or cell phone usage.

One reason for my attitude was that I found especially irritating some people’s habit of engaging in loud, intimate conversations on their mobile phone in public places. It put me off.

If that was my initial reaction to the mobile phone, surely it’s not hard to guess what I feel about ‘Social Media’. In any case, how ‘sociable’ is it? If ‘social’ has the positive connotation of “allowing people to meet and interact with others in a friendly way”, how can an application that makes people lose their head and post there nude photos of themselves, or for revenge, be considered ‘social’?

Furthermore, the dreadful aspect of posting something on the internet is that whether good or bad, it remains there virtually forever. Like the plastic menace, it’s not biodegradable!

Courtesy of a friend, I got a smartphone as a gift but I soon got tired of trying to understand it and so choose to continue to rely on my trusty archaic phone.

Like the ‘Tablet’, the portable computer which some people display so ostentatiously at functions, as they strut about, taking photos, what I can’t stand about these devices is that apparently, the manufacturers presume that possessing one means you need no manual.

They expect you to somehow know how to use it because you have to start it before you access the instructions! Or else you have to go to their website to find the manual! How annoying!

Moreover, trying to understand the computer jargon is too much work. But maybe I’m just old-fashioned!
Anyway, my standard response to Social Media ‘link-up’ invitations is to delete or ignore them. If you want to make contact, what’s wrong with just calling me by phone?

I do, however, make exceptions for text messages and the email – especially as those are the invaluable tools I use to communicate with the Editor to get this column published!

Incidentally, we’re told that very soon we’ll all be dragged into the digital pool because Ghana’s television system is going fully digital. We will have to adapt our analogue or ‘colo’ sets or throw them away; or donate them to the museum. But that’s another story for another day.

But how does one keep up? For it seems that the digital world is full of hyperactive ICT fanatics who have nothing better to do than sit at their computer and invent new functions every blessed day, just to make life difficult for some of us!

Through a techno-guru I got to know some of the latest, terms not as familiar as Youtube, Facebook and Twitter: Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchart and Pinterest. What next?! Why can’t they give it a rest?

Happily, I find that I’m not alone. What a joy it was to come across two delightful letters in recent issues of a magazine I subscribe to, The Oldie, published in London! They indicate that there are kindred spirits even in the UK who, like me, are ‘against’.

The first that sarcastically and brilliantly sums up the absurdities of the craze was published in the Oldie’s August issue. Under the headline ‘My own social media’, a 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 principle.

“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.”

The letter concludes: “And it works. I already have four people following me: two police officers, a social worker and a psychiatrist.”
But apparently others too applaud the perceptiveness and humour of Mr White. In the September issue, there is a brief, but equally compelling rejoinder from a Robert Adams with the fitting headline ‘His own social media’:
“I think that the letter from Mr Peter White is the most cogent comment on contemporary civilisation that I have read in a very long time.”
I concur!

And to all those extending invitations to me to join Facebook, or expecting to read ‘tweets’ from me, I don’t mind if I’m called old-fashioned or ‘colo’. My response is: sorry, but count me out!

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