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    Is social media a double-edged sword? – By: Gul Rehan

    Is social media a double-edged sword? – By: By Gul Rehan

    The pervasive spread of the internet has generated a vast array of social fora in the public domain. A tech-savvy feels it irresistible lest he doesn’t once scroll and scan his Facebook page. Out of world’s estimated 7.9 billion populations in 2023, nearly 4.89 billion are using social media; Facebook, Instagram, snapchat, TikTok or WhatsApp etc. one way the other in the capacity of individuals or groups for private, academic or business purposes. Facebook global users spend an average of 58 minutes per day on the platform in 2022. Globally people are spending less and less time on Facebook!! The more something is used, chances of its being misused increases leading to harmful effects. Connectivity to internet has changed the world to global village where any [mis]information from any tiny pocket of world spreads like wildfire. In case of Pakistan, where everyone is hooked onto it, the spread of fake and fictitious news or information abounds. So it has become imperative to use this media appropriately. Misuse or mishandling can cause more harm than good if used by disgruntled, unscrupulous and vested interested people at individual or state level. Hackers’ hacking cause loss of money to exchequer and stopping timely execution of state working.

    I view it more positive than negative, as most rationale people do. There are more people for yes than nay. Majority of youth and elders are using it productively. All it depends on the users’ intent and age bracket. The positive aspects of strong bond through connective whether at nearby workplaces or at far away remote areas are far greater. It has become a hub for decreasing isolation, where one can connect to professionals and others for meaningful engagements. But if one isn’t aware of its use in different milieu with reference to symbols, boundaries (bad words, emoticons etc.), this interconnectivity might land one in hotspot. Excessive tweeting, posting or sharing at times may detach fiancés, couples from reality and ensuing disappointments.

    A study conducted in 2018 by Brigham Young University found that extensive social media usage is linked with decreased emotional wellness and lower satisfaction in interpersonal relationships. Thanks to google and YouTube religious clerics celebrate their independence everyday by prophesying their version being righteous and virtuous; in writing and speaking while proving ‘others’ on contrary. Women get most of the brunt; trading-off comprises, acceding to unreasonable demand for face-saving. The mob mentality and morally bankrupt society compel some to end their own lives or often get killed at the altar of honour. Pakistan Penal code and cybercrime laws to police misleading information and deceptive motives seems toothless with the ongoing sagas, at all.

    There are many child-friendly sites for games, contests, competitions, videos, which keep them busy, make up their mind in safe environment from their homes. It teaches preteens, tweens and teens the etiquette of interacting by leaving good and positive comments.  But psychologists at the same time, are seriously inquiring about impact of the endless scrolling, overdoing or overusing by kids on these sites. Minds of teens are more receptive and prone to instant action, which often prove fatal. Notwithstanding perennially sticking to these sites and game sounds increase irritability, anxiety and lack of self-esteem in children. Others blame viral trends on social media for dangerous action taken by females and children.

    Social media makes it easy to compare oneself with others, which has often been proven unhealthy. Those at the lower end who can’t or are not doing well get unnecessarily dismayed and dejected. Addictive behaviour impairs your perception of time attention, attention span and arousal. Sex symbols and sexism through different sites for various products has negative impact on teens’ mind. Social media or platforms are double edge sword; useful as well harmful particularly in teens age group. Offspring’s of well off families post petty success with shiny photos, which may cause depression to those who are at the lower end nothing to share or show. Poet Shakut Jamal has lucidly and ludicrously summed it up in his couplet

    انگنت  ہیں  اب  سمندر  پار    دوستتھے  محلے  میں  ہی  بس    دو  چار  دوست
    ساری  دنیا  میں  ہیں  واقف  کار،  دوستفیس    بک  کی  ہیں    کرم  فرمائیاں
    کچھ  ہیں  دُنیا  دار  کچھ  دین  دار   دوستان  میں  کچھ  نادار  کچھ  خوش  حال  ہیں
    ہیں  مگر  وہ   بھی  جو  ہیں  فنکار  صاحب  کردار  ہیں  ان  میں  کئی 
    جب    ہوئے    جتنے  ہوئے  درکار  دوستفیس    بک    سے  ہی  مجھے  حاصل  ہوئے 
    بشتر       لیکن  ہیں  شب  بیدار  دوستدوست    کچھ  ملتے  ہیں  مجھ  کو  محو  خواب
    اور  سمجھتے  ہیں  غم  خوار  دوستحال  دل  لکھتے  ہیں  میر  ے  پیج  پر
    داد  مانگیں  بھیج  کر  اشعار  دوستشاعری  سے  ہے  شغف    تو  رات  دن
    بے  تکی  کرتے  ہیں  پھر  تکرار  دوستبحث  چھٹر  جائے  سیاست  پہ  اگر
    فیس  بک  سے      بھیجتے    ہیں  تار  دوست   ہو    اگر  کوئی  ولادت  یا  وفات
    چوک  ہو  جائےتو  ہیں  خونخوار  دوستکرنا  ہے    لا  یئک        مجھےہر  پوسٹ  کو
    گھیر  لیتے    ہیں  گل  و  گلزار  دوست فیس  بک  کھولیے    جس  وقت  بھی
    چوک  پر  ملتے  کہاں  ہیں    چار    دوست فیس  بک  ہی    آج  کل  چوپال  ہے

       Computer scientists have made the availability of excessive amount of tools and gadgets’ easy access to interesting sites and sounds through internet. Nevertheless aside from positive and easy features, there are other grey areas; cyberbullying, online predatory, violent video games and pornographic videos and pictures. These have grave impact on their natural mental development and freedom. Luring through incentives, promotions and false marketing also cause damage to these age groups. In America alone owing to online scams and frauds there has been more than $5.8 billion losses in 2021, and is increasingly on the rise.  Dr. Eshleman says “Kids don’t have the cognitive and executive functioning to think through harmful situations”. Online bullying is a constant phenomenon than physical and spreads quickly causing negative goodwill. Particularly in Pakistan females image and goodwill in society are downgraded when they do not concede to unreasonable demands of few greedy males. Speaking lawfully viewing porn is a crime and is banned in our country but Pakistan stands in the top position while China is the second in the world.

    Solving Mathematical exercises, doing puzzles, playing word-games enhance mental capacity of all and sundry. Which one can’t get at one place or with single teacher/mentor, if we speak of any school setting. There are many useful sites for educators and students to learn; Brainly, ClassHook, TED-Ed, MinecraftEdu, TeachersConnect to name a few. And it is increasing rapidly owing to increasing demand of users. The space constraint does not allow me to mention other media like youtube etc. In case of my field of interest Mathematics, khanacademy, IXL, ByteLearn.com, are few sites where students of all grades can learn mathematics. Apart from institutions like Virtual University, Pakistan, if someone whose interests are Mathematics or Physics, google on Google Neha Agrawal’s “mathematically inclined” and Akshay on physics, one gets fair understanding in short time. Acquisition of genuine education and skill sets is a must for real development, which our country direly needs to jack up. Though there is graded opportunity for skilled people but those with least education can do freelancing job like data feeding, content writing. According to a report issued by Payoneer, a global payment platform, Pakistan has ranked as the 8th fastest-growing freelancing economy in the world with a growth of 69 percent. These statistics show bright future of freelancing and online earning in Pakistan. Given the high cost of doing business in the country under the current conditions, youth can better capture and capitalize on this sector.

    Sadly, it has become daily activity of a mom playing cartoons- assuming catalyst role, to feed her year-and-half old baby. And toddlers’ have become so obstinate to attend schools or start school work unless shown any game or video. That is consumption of huge chunk of teenagers’ time, when it is their age to develop their faculty and retention power by reading Holy Quran and good books. Books increases knowledge and thinking. It actually makes learning easier. Knowledge is not only cumulative, it grows exponentially. Those with a rich base of factual knowledge find it easier to learn more. Hadhrat Ali(AS) says “books are the gardens of scholars”. Since knowledge is informal experience, which one can acquire reading books whereas education is formal process available in school, college, university. Knowledge is more of general and education specific. Both are necessary to broaden thinking and imagination. Einstein says, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world”.

    Since my caption insinuates ‘double edged sword’, and myself favouring its positive impact on everyone’s everyday life, thus am emphatic on its productive uses. It depends upon users’ age and preferences. If your child is at an older age, has sound maturity level, he can meet your expectations by teaching etiquette, how to navigate and negotiate with others on these social platforms. Parent can play a role model for their kids on visiting safe and healthy virtual sites and keeping healthy activities on social media. Talking honestly with your children of their thinking and analyses on recent trending. Monitoring their scrolling and consumption, limiting their daily screen time, can go long way in increasing their learning capacity. The bottom line of our life which should really matter is mental calmness, simple, happy and healthy life, not all the unnecessary webs and vibes. Hadhrat Ali (AS) says, “those who preoccupy themselves with books live with peace of mind”.

    The writer hails from Ghizer, currently teaches international baccalaureate(IB) in Gulf country and is pursuing her doctorate in Mathematics. She can be reached at [email protected]

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