social media iconsBy Adeela Naureen and Umar Waqar

Have you ever logged the time spent by your children on social networks, twittering, Facebooking, whatsapping and vibering…you may get a shock of your life as it could run into more than ten hours per day,try it. While we are social media enthusiasts and have been positively and negatively addicted to networking, we still believe that use of social media by the youth needs some soul searching.

Social media and networking is an essential part of our lives and for the next generation it has already become something like oxygen.TV entered our lives in late sixties and was considered to be quite addictive, at times impinging on the family life and taking steam out of creativity. But what was TV’s role in terms of daily interference in our time, maximum of two to four hours of selective news watching and following your favourite entertainment(drama serial etc).The cable TV changed it all and the TV viewing became more addictive as the choice to flick your remote control over a plate of French Fries and a cup of tea or coffee or a bowl of ice cream made you a king or queen in your drawing room, but still you needed a drawing room or TV room to do that and you could not communicate live with your friends on the issues of interest.

Advent of smart phone and explosion of social media has taken the TV screen into each and every room of your house, office, college, mosque or church(bathrooms included),in fact the gadget is like a three in one facility(TV,Phone,Camera) available to almost everyone like a tooth brush, it is more than a tooth brush as you don’t carry your tooth brush everywhere ; mobile phone has become part of your body…notice that you cannot part with this gadget even in your bed and the feeling of getting lost when you don’t find this little thing any time of the day(ever heard of NOMOPHOBIA!! hit Wikipedia to find out).

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Now something serious on use or abuse of social media and networking; first and the foremost is the challenge of time management, those, especially youth, who are not aware or careful of the use of networking may find themselves immersed or even drowned in a time wastingocean. The time required for serious study and research and preparation for exams has not shrunk when compared to the past, however inability of majority of students to do justice to study has already started negatively affecting the exam results.

Ever heard of young kids struck by thrombosis being evacuated to hospitals in emergency, routine cases are being reported all around the world that kids and young people within an age bracket of 10 to 30 are suffering from strokes related to thrombosis because of long hours of sitting on their laptops or remaining glued to their smart phones in same body position without realising the effects. Other physical problems include early loss of eye sight, migraine, obesity, laziness and ineptitude for sports and loss of touch with the immediate family in the house, creating more psychological problems.

The developed world has already started realising the negative effects of proliferation of social media and is trying to devise strategies to minimise the damage being done to the youth, however the developing world engrossed in the day to day affairs related to empowerment of the poor populace and development issues may find it hard to spare time for such unknown issues like negative effects of social media, but can we start a debate at least?

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While critics may state that we cannot miss the information highway in 21st Century and the road to knowledge based economy passes through the internet, we will partially agree with it with a pinch of salt. While we cannot miss the information highway, somebody has to put road signs so that the traffic is guided to the destination and does not wear off the road into a deep gorge. The youth is our future and if it remains misguided, bewildered, addicted and confused, we are in for a big trouble; the youth could become a daunting challenge instead of becoming useful for the society.

So the strategy; while remaining right in the forefront of our drive for knowledge based economy and making our way on the information highway, we have to start honest discussions on uses and abuses of social media. This discussion should be structured to take the academia on board, social media watchdogs and think tanks could be created and encouraged to analyse the issues discussed in this paper(although these are not exhaustive at all and need much more deliberation).The discussion should lead to a policy and strategy formulation and promulgation of information programmes at different levels. It could take shape of an orchestrated campaign to involve elders and the youth (almost like Anti Dengue Campaign) with help from print and electronic media with clearly defined objectives and goals. Hopefully, we as a nation could come out with a strategy of action and develop an ability to drive on the information highway with safety along with our future generation.