Much of online media in South Sudan are consumed via social networks, mainly Facebook, Twitter and Instagram which remain accessible mostly in major towns. According to Internet World Stats (2019), active social media users in South Sudan have grown by 21 percent year on year between 2018 and 2019 and currently stand at 230,000, representing 1.8 percent of the total population.
Slightly more than 220,000 social media users access the networks from their mobile devices. In terms of the platforms, Facebook is used by an estimated 214,201 users as of April 2019, making it the most popular social media. Instagram is used by 10.9 percent of active social media users and LinkedIn by 12.6 percent. Twitter and Snapchat have a small (almost insignificant) number of users in the country.
Indeed, social media makes lives better but people’s lives are damaged too. The positive effects of social media cannot cover up for its negative effects which every user should know.
Social media have grown in popularity in South Sudan, particularly Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp. During the war, social media tools were reported to have played a significant role in the escalation and de-escalation of conflicts. On one hand they are providing space for South Sudanese to share news and information and creating a platform for interaction and engagement on issues developing in the country. But, on the other hand, the platforms have been used to fuel or instigate rumours and in some cases to incite violence, according to the 2016 UN report on freedom of opinion and expression in South Sudan since the 2016 crisis.
Below are 7 negative impacts of social media on real people that happen every day in South Sudan and you rarely see:
Every day, bulk loads of personal pieces of information are released on every social media platform. People post their activities online and a complete stranger can access it. Worst still, bloggers have eyes everywhere to track people’s activities and movement for content. Sadly, this unchecked access to people’s details has gotten people hurt. Social media has made nothing personal anymore because anything posted can be used against you.
Homes have been robbed, relationships broken, and people kidnapped because of information gotten online — in the wrong hands. Some people have lost their jobs and remain unemployed because of the information they had posted previously and even forgotten about. Bloggers even raid people’s online privacy and spread unsolicited information just for clout.
Decreased Mental Health
Research has proven that there is a strong bond between social media and mental well being. A lot of people have gotten depressed and suicidal because of their activities online. The hostility and criticism of commenters on certain posts have adversely affected people’s mental health. People see the post of others and it makes them feel they aren’t doing enough with their lives.
Victims of this social-media-induced depression are dealing with high levels of anxiety, low self-esteem, etc. This has consequently prompted some people to do things that are harmful to themselves.
The quest of looking for ways to maximize certain social media features has made some users miss out on productive offline engagements.
The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) feeling has got people spending a whole day online checking notifications, making posts, and comment. This has destroyed people’s morale and productivity that they can’t commit to their daily jobs. The lack of a social media scheduling strategy has become a big distraction. Thus, the user’s time and energy is devoted online ignoring core offline activities.
People have become disconnected from the real world and have become attached to strangers they meet online. The high rate of unrealistic expectations of friendship and lives showcased online has made people lose human connection. A person ignores the lack of online authenticity and compares him or herself with others.
Equally, the feeling of unworthiness especially for people battling with their self-esteem and self-image makes them lose real friends. Even worse, people have ignored the importance of (occasional) of face-to-face interactions and would rather use instant messaging apps all through.
Furthermore, people are buying what they don’t need just because they want to flaunt it on social media. Along with how e-commerce is growing, people are lured to buy unnecessary products for farce. Online shopping is easy, cheap, and convenient, and people regularly fall prey to unplanned buying. This has led them to going broke and acquiring huge debt. Even so, the idea of saving and investment is fading as people are quick to buy what’s advertised online.
At this time, cyber bulling among youths is gradually taking over and posing a huge threat. For example, students use the media as an avenue to prank and send mean text to people they can’t face physically. Not only do they post threatening and insultive messages but also hack peoples account. Moreover, the victims don’t take them likely.
In addition, report of constant manipulating photos, trolls, threat emails, critics, and tensions has damaged people lives. Scammers and internet fraudsters have taken advantage of this insecurity to dupe people through various means. As a result, people have lost their lives after falling prey to these insecurities breaches.
Increased Fake Information
Misinformation has become a trend on social media. Without any fact-checking or research, people believe what they see on social media and are ready to act on them. Most people post misleading content and have people innocently believe them. This has crashed some online business and even tarnished brand reputation. All crises alongside its impact resulting from false information online are huge.
In summary, the popular adage “social media is a necessary evil” has some truth in it, and the reason isn’t far-fetched. Although the positive impact of social media is massive, the negative impact should be given due attention. If remains unchecked, the dangers attached could be grave.