January 17, 2018


From a quick glance to longer minutes and then hours, we seem to stare at our devices, unconscious, if not completely unaware of what’s going on in our brains. We’re also not aware that we are connected to the person who masturbates, to the helpless prostitute, to the smoker, to the drunk and to the drug addict. Yes, we are connected ultimately with a singular brain reaction called “dopamine.”
There are those who truly believe and rightly so, that without any social media presence in today’s world, there’ll be no ultimate meaningful existence. These are the folks who will be quick to mention how they found both jobs and love here. How soon will they know that though convenient, they could also be very wrong.


The Social Media Experiment


It was Cal Newport, an Assistant Professor of computer science at Georgetown University, who responded to these kinds of people.
He had opined in his TEDx that “social media is not a fundamental technology. It is entertainment gone addictive. Many social media companies hire ‘attention engineers’ who borrow principles from Las Vagas Casino gambling among other places to try to make these products as addictive as possible.” This explains sufficiently the concept of re-directioning when surfing the net. Unknown to us, this is the Internet dictating to our vulnerable minds what it should do.
Refreshingly, the news of Paul Miller’s ( an American Technology Journalist from Springfield, Missouri and senior editor for The Verge) offline experience makes a lot of sense here too. His experiment gained worldwide media attention when he published his article, ‘I’m Still Here’ at The Verge. After a year of living ‘disconnected’ he published his findings and caused a discussion on hyperconnectivity and the influence of the internet on our daily lives. This discourse was not complete without the confessions of Chamath Palihapitiya, a former Facebook executive, who himself acknowledged the negative influences of social media and how it’s tearing societies apart (cf.  https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/dec/11/facebook-former-executive-ripping-society-apart).

After watching him speak, I came to the conclusion too that we become more emotional when we live ‘offline lives’ offline! Our availability with, and to people will get even at a deeper level. We connect more with our extended family, with our jobs, with our aspirations and with our search for meaning.



My boarding house experience comes to mind here.
We weren’t allowed to use phones or even laptops in our hostels in my first year in Ogun State, Nigeria.

Since it was a boarding house, activities were not in want and we didn’t feel odd either. Maybe. Our lives were fragmented, not with tweets, glances and updates but by games, excursions, drama, plays, social nights, friends, quarrels, jealousy and study. In fact my love for animals, for nature, as well as my history of carrying and taming snakes is never complete without my mention of this house-without-gadgets. It was during this period I composed and had later compiled about 50 plus songs in a matter of weeks.

Former Facebook executive.
Chamath Palihapitiya, former Facebook executive warns about social media. Video by CBS evening news @ Jeff Glor.



Our young people, should be constantly reminded of this. They (we) should be reminded that if you are able to write algorithms, solve equations, answer fundamental questions, etc, you will be sought for despite the number of instagram, Facebook or twitter followers you have.  If you claim that you got a job via social media, then you should be grateful. Why? Because you had used your offline time to discover what was rare and valuable.


In other words, social media was one of such means you took to show the world your ‘offline discoveries.’ And this discovery is by the fact itself linked to your thinking capacities and abilities, rather than the ‘likes,’ ‘comments,’ and ‘wows.’ Sadly, your capacity for attention would be gradually reduced by social media, and for this reason, you’d be more likely un-useful to the economy.But we might be clearly deceived to think this ultimately untrue. Reasons are not far-fetched. Social media is built with all the ‘mechanical emotions’ turn emoticons –  at least we get to think that the ‘love,’ ‘sad,’ ‘angry,’ ‘happy,’ and ‘funny’ reactions are just as real as the emotions we feel outside our screens.


Because of this, our brains are constantly getting used to being ‘fed’ with these ‘how to think’ phenomena. Our brains are losing the physical engagements it would have had from being empowered to the ‘what to think’ phenomena. We must, you must, from this writ, and from the researches of my academic elders, begin to treat our attention, your attention with respect and it will amaze you at what intensity your job will done. On the other hand, if the first thing you tend to do every morning is think or touch your phone to check for notifications, I tell you, you are an addict. And like every other addiction, you’ll need help. It might be an anxiety related disorder. Who knows? If you doubt, ask Russel Brand, the author of “Recovery from our Addictions.”When you’re tempted to escape into the social media world, think now of the following:**Is this escape going to heal me?

**Is this escape the best kind of escape?

The image is the transillumination of a new born’s head. A rare condition called hydranencephaly – characterized by destruction of the cerebral hemispheres. Courtesy of @medicaltalks

‘Social media disorder’ is like this transillumination because it happens only when the room lights of the world are dimmed for the ones in our devices to ‘glow.’
Author: David Francis E.


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