SLICE OF LIFE: Social media has taken over my life

Social media continues its pursuit to take over my daily life. I am probably a better photojournalist on Instagram than most professionals and I have developed better investigative skills than the FBI.

I have come to a realisation that my activity on social media is far greater than the average joe. Or is it?

I constantly ask myself what life would be like without the various social media accounts that I have, and if the time and effort I put into each of them is actually worth it.

Posting pictures on Instagram used to be a daily activity until it became more like a full-time job. It takes me a good couple of hours to decide which photo I should put up on Instagram. I question every single thing about the photo.  Should it be in black and white? Would it look better if it had a filter that makes me look tanned? Does this photo match the scheme of my profile feed? I also struggle to find the perfect caption. Should it be funny, philosophical or even relate to my picture at all? I have spent countless hours scrolling through Pinterest trying to find a decent caption that fits my picture and then I just end up using an emoticon anyway. The amount of effort I put into posting one picture makes me wonder about the precious time I have just wasted.

It’s a bit of a catch-22 really. A world without social media would not allow me to do the small things in life that I enjoy. Facebook lets me check up on friends who I haven’t seen since high school. I can watch my cousins grow up in America without missing out on their milestones.

But social media sucks me in. One minute I’m watching a video of a man who ran the Two Oceans Marathon on crutches and two hours later, I’m watching a video of a dog barking to its favourite song.

My mornings usually begin with checking my cellphone and spending endless time checking my social media accounts. The process starts with WhatsApp, then I switch over to Facebook to check whose birthday it is (I would never remember otherwise). Then I have to catch up on what’s happening on Snapchat stories and liking pictures on Instagram. I watch people skydive in Dubai and think of all the activities I could be doing if I left my bed.

I finish off this ritual with a good scroll through Twitter, trying to find out the latest news in hopes that I will pass the week’s current news pop quiz. When I’ve completed all these chores, I finally feel ready to get out of bed.

As a student journalist, social media has become essential in my life. Twitter helps me stay tapped into up-to-the-minute news. I also share stories I have produced on there. Not everyone reads newspapers anymore and without social media, I’m not too sure how people find my stories.

Social media has truly become so rooted in my life that even my decisions are dictated by the things I see on Apps on my phone. Zomato decides where I want to go out for dinner. If I need to contact someone for a story, I tweet them.

At the end of the day, I’ve come to terms with my social media dependency. My relationship with my phone is not an abnormality, I actually think it’s become the norm in my generation.

If I had one rand for every time I looked at my social media accounts, I would be a millionaire.

Hold that thought while I go decide what photo I’m going to post on Instagram next.

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Existing outside social media

I recently deactivated and deleted all my social media accounts. The idea struck me on my drive home to the Eastern Cape for December holidays late last year. I drove down the Smithfield/Rouxville/Aliwal North route. Those who’ve gone down that part of the world will agree that there exists an abundance of land and sky and clean air, a welcome reprieve from the corrosive claustrophobia of the city.

A closer look at those large swathes of land along the N6 reveals barbed fences behind which spacious pastoral homesteads, concealed by clumps of trees, form the core building units from which the fulcrum of small towns like Aliwal North spreads out like a spider’s web.

Mud and corrugated iron townships dart the rims of this web, supplying farms and farm owners with black bodies to command and possess. Wikipedia says Aliwal North was named in tribute to Sir Harry Smith who was the governor of the Cape Colony when he established the town in 1849. According to the same Wiki entry he named the town “Aliwal” in memory of his victory over the Sikhs at the Battle of Aliwal during the First Sikh War in India in 1846. The entry doesn’t mention whether there were people already living in the area when Smith made it his own. Our so-called South African history is a compendium of subtractions and erasures. Our own collective amnesia further compounded by urgency of the politics of now.

This sudden realisation – sudden for I’d been preoccupied with Donald Trump and whatever else passes for a punchline on my social media timeliness – made me think, seriously, about what I choose to subtract from my everyday experience of the world. At that moment I was either going to instagram Umtali Inn (where I spent the evening) or I was going to google it and discover that it was more than 60 years old.

That in its colourful history people of my skin colour weren’t allowed to shack up in its tastelessly decorated rooms that still reeked of 80s apartheid aesthetic. My companion and I went for a swim in the unlit pool that evening and watched the stars stare back at our scantily privileged black bodies enjoying the exclusive decadence of apartheid in this small town where white men still call a black man ‘boy’.

In my bag I’d packed Paul Beatty’s The Sellout. It was sheer coincidence. In the book the narrator, Bonbon, re-instates segregation in a fictional Los Angeles town of Dickens. And here we were in this softly segregated town, no more segregated than the suburbs from the townships in the city. I wondered if there is much difference between class segregation and other institutional segregations. My thoughts recalled that old Orwellian metaphor about some animals being more equal than others.

I imagined there are books that make sense of post-colonies in current global capitalism and culture. I began to suspect that in these books I’d probably make sense of my place in the current form of the world. A world I have helped create whether by choice, by force, or by necessity. Later, I deactivated Instagram and its carefully curated scenes of happy, interesting lives. I thought of Aliwal North and relics like Rouxville and pondered how they performed non-racial, non-sexist post-apartheid democracy. And so, instead of looking for another world calamity or gossip on Twitter during the holidays I spent time at home reading Mahmood Mamdani’s Citizen and Subject and argued politics with my uncle over beers. The internet is bloated with free e-books and essays and lectures and good journalism. I’ve been downloading, borrowing from the library and jacking free music online. At times when I’m in the library reading a novel or a short story or a play (Parentheses of Blood by Sony Labou Tansi is worth a look) I wonder what I have been doing with my life these past 3 years.

 

 

Students flaunt it all on social media

UJ chicks show more booty and are more “free spirited” than Wits chicks. Sound like a stereotype? One look at the Facebook page, Wits chicks versus UJ chicks, adds some real meat to the stereotypes of “hot” women.

Girls post pictures of themselves in crop tops, sports bras and pleather pants which hug the thighs and accentuate the booty.

Female students from the University of Johannesburg (UJ) post the most girls on the Facebook page. Slindelo Mbatha, a 3rd year student from UJ, says she thinks female students do not treat their body as a temple and that it is an incorrect way to represent women.

“My body is my pride so there’s no way I can post naked pictures on Facebook, hell no. I think it’s slut-ish, nje,” she says.

New and Social Media lecturer at Wits Journalism, Dinesh Balliah, says employers look into social media profiles because people are more free about who they are, so employers want to be sure whom they are associated with.

“When someone sees a picture of you drunk that is something that they attach to you and that is what they think you are,” she says.

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BRINGING SEXY BACK: A student flaunts it all on the “Wits vs. UJ chicks” Facebook page to compete with other girls for the “hottest” in varsity title.

A 1st year student from UJ, Livhu Mukhondo, thinks it is disgraceful to show your body in public because it gives off the wrong impression.

“It’s degrading, it misinterprets us in a false manner. As if showing skin is all there is about us, there is more to our content,” Mkhondo says.

While social networks are platforms to express yourself and a place to network amongst friends, the extent to which one is willing to share themselves is starting to tarnish their identity.

Female stereotypes in the media continue to thrive especially when it comes to self-identity and body image. Somehow young women feel as though they have to live up to the way they are defined by media.

Tafadzwa Samu, 3rd year at UJ, thinks there are better ways to show a woman’s “hotness” and beauty besides flashing boobs and butt because it is degrading.

“It is totally unacceptable and I think it is slutty … and disrespectful to your body,” he says.

Samu says more UJ girls are more willing to post pictures of themselves in sports bras and hot pants compared to Wits girls because they are more free-spirited.

Balliah said the definitions of what is considered private have changed because social media was initially platforms which connected people who know each other. However, it has developed to connect organisations, big corporations and people who do not know each other.

“You need to be very prudent about the choices you make and what you are sharing online,” she says.

 

Wits VC taken to task over photo tweet

Habib was attacked for sharing a photo that he said was from Gaza, when it was actually from Syria, earlier this year. Photo: Twitter

Habib was attacked for sharing a photo that he said was from Gaza, when it was actually from Syria, earlier this year. Photo: Twitter

Unverified photos and information often don’t get very far on social media platforms as networks of people around the world are quick to react to and correct any improper use.

This is exactly what Wits vice-chancellor Prof Adam Habib realised this past Sunday as one of his tweets, containing an incorrectly attributed photograph, attracted close to 60 responses in less than an  hour.

Habib used a picture from the Syrian conflict that was taken in February this year and incorrectly atrributed it to the current conflict in Gaza.

The photo that shows the legs of a corpse sticking out from underneath rubble had been mistakenly used on social media several times in the last few weeks.

“The consequences of Obama’s defense of Israel’s war in Gaza. How could we have allowed him to talk at Madiba’s funeral,” Habib tweeted.

Following the reponses to Habib’s tweet, he apologised and later tweeted, “the photo was copied from an earlier tweet.”

But he remained resolute in his point, tweeting that he “could find another photo to demonstrate this but what would be the point.”

“Let’s deal with the substance -children are dying,” Habib tweeted.

The incident happened at a time when the circulation of false information, and in particular, photos, is occurring more frequently via social media platforms.

But coupled with the ease of sharing information, is the ability to share unverified information which can be damaging.

In the case of Malaysia Airlines flights 17 and 370, a story about a Dutch cyclist who was booked to go on both flights (but at the last minute changed his mind) was widely circulated a week ago.

However, it was soon discovered that there was no proof that 29-year-old Maarten de Jonge ever bought a ticket.

In these instances, fiction becomes fact very quickly as information is taken out of context or passed off as the truth. The impact and consequences of sharing fale information can be dangerous, especially because information can reach more people, in a shorter amount of time.

Wits to host Digital Africa Festival 2014

In recognition of the role digital technology is destined to play in “Africa’s Century”, Wits University has announced that it will host its inaugural Fak’ugesi: Digital Africa Festival 2014, running from 11 August to mid-September 2014.

The festival will be centered on the JCSE’s new Tshimologong Precinct and will make use of other venues on Wits East and West Braamfontein campuses, the Maboneng Precinct and 44 Stanley.

For more information and specific dates, visit our online calendar.

HEADLINE EVENTS CONFIRMED:

Agile Africa 2014: A major conference on software development methods, following up on the very successful inaugural event held in Braamfontein in August 2013.

A MAZE/Johannesburg 2014: An Indie-Games and Digital Arts Festival, attracting games developers and digital artists from Europe and Africa. This festival has been run annually since 2012 in Braamfontein in partnership with the organisers of Berlin’s A MAZE Festival.

CASCADE: CASCADE is a collaborative multi-disciplinary project that champions digital content development through a series of workshops and activities. The event is led by “Onedotzero” – an experiential arts organisation with over 16 years’ experience in curating and producing cultural events and content for brands and agencies. CASCADE will be supported by the British Council.

Process Improvement Africa: This is a one-day conference focusing on the role that process and process improvement plays in helping ICT organisations deliver high quality products and services in a predictable and repeatable manner. The conference will showcase models and methods such as CMMI, ITIL, TSP and AGILE.

Maker Event: 3-D Printing, laser cutters and other rapid prototyping tools are revolutionizing hardware innovation. “Maker Spaces” give innovators the freedom to explore solutions in the hardware world as easily as software developers do in the world of bits and bytes. The Maker Event will provide an opportunity for “Makers” to collaborate, learn and teach.

Unyazi Festival of Electronic Music: The only African festival dedicated to the latest developments in electronic and electro-acoustic music. Launched at Wits in 2005, the 2014 Festival, in partnership with NewMusicSA, will feature innovative and exploratory music from African and the rest of the world.

OPINION: Addicted to social media, and loving it!

ANTI-SOCIAL?:  Recent anti-social media campaigns have criticized generation Y's of being out of touch with the world. Photo:  Lameez Omarjee

ANTI-SOCIAL?: Recent anti-social media campaigns have criticised ‘Generation Y’ of being out of touch with the world. Photo: Lameez Omarjee

Hi, my name is Lameez and I am addicted to social media.

They say the first step to recovery is admission. Only, I am not in denial and I have no plans to recover.

I think Mark Zuckerberg is gangsta and the only regret I have is not dropping out of school to start a multi-billion dollar company by the age of 23, myself. If this journalism thing does not work out, I am asking Mark for a job, to finally  put my other degree to good use.

Anti-social media campaigns have ironically gone viral. I have watched the videos. I recognise myself, looking at the screens and not “being in touch” with the world.

But these anti-social initiatives are not the most objective videos telling only one side of a story which on its own sounds ominous for future generations.

The video where the man misses the chance to meet the love of his life because he is too busy looking down at his screen and subsequently misses the feeling of holding his grandson in his arms, thirty years later is so overly dramatic! I can Google tons of people who found love on the internet, they are all on Craigslist.

People say social media makes you anti-social. What the “deuce?” (I learnt that from reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s, Sherlock Holmes, so, contrary to popular belief, I do actually read).

Sure, I hate it when my dad does not hear what I am saying because he is too busy playing Candy Crush on his iPad, but have you ever played Candy Crush? Have you watched a vine? Do you know what YouTube can teach you?

I use Google and Wikipedia to expand my general knowledge and using that knowledge I contribute to an international community of bloggers where I get to exchange ideas with talented writers and learn to improve my own work.

“Each day the number of avenues for you to express yourself creatively on the web are growing.”

I am more in touch with the world because of social media.

As an introvert, social media has given me opportunities to voice my opinions appropriately assertively, on platforms where people with differing values and perceptions can engage with me.

 

I know the closest relationship I have is with my smartphone. But at least he does not hang out in other people’s pockets. And when he gets boring I can always replace him with a better model.

Want to avoid someone? There’s an app for that!

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HIDING OUT: The Split app helps you avoid people by using geo-location information from social media sites. Photo: Tracey Ruff

Social media has made connecting with people really simple and easy but what if you don’t really feel like bumping into your crazy ex the next time you step out?

Responding to the need for people to avoid each other at times, a new mobile phone app called ‘Split’, was released last week. The app makes use of information from social media websites, using geo-location data, to alert the user when someone they are trying to avoid is within their vicinity.

[pullquote align=”right”]”What if I’m in a relationship, but my boyfriend uses it and finds out I’m with my second boyfriend?”[/pullquote]

Udi Dagan, the app’s creator, came up with the idea after a night out ended in an uncomfortable scenario for him. “The idea for Split was born on a frustrating night, about two years ago, when I ran into my ex-girlfriend in a bar,” he told ubergizmo.com. “After a few awkward minutes, I hurriedly gathered my friends out of there and into another pub down the street, where I literally bumped into another ex … not a good night.”

The app, available free for iOS and Android devices, uses geo-location information from social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare of the people you want to avoid and alerts you when they are nearby. It also suggests an escape route on a map for you to make your get away, and even notifies you if they are attending the same Facebook events as you.

“I think it’s really cool!” said Lethabo Kutumela, a first-year BComm Accounting student from the University of Johannesburg. “It’s something lots of people would want to have. I’d use it if I had a fight with my boyfriend, or if I was trying to avoid a stalker.”

The app does raise questions about privacy, however, as it provides the location and movements of people without notifying them in any way.

“I never want that app,” said Semkelisiwe Makhoba, a first year Film and Production student at Wits. “It’s too personal; people will know where I am and what I’m doing. It could also get you into trouble. What if I’m in a relationship, but my boyfriend uses it and finds out I’m with my second boyfriend?”

Split is not the first anti-social app to become available. A similar app called Cloak was released a few weeks before Split and offered the same opportunities to avoid people, although it only used information from Foursquare and Instagram.

 

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