Reckoning with the power – and downside – of social media

Friday July 24 2020

Oh, wow! Americans love to say.

Americans and Europeans developed the Internet. And we have ALL been using it for over 20 years now.

Within that time, social media was born. We had Facebook in 2004; YouTube the following year. Then Twitter – 2006 (chocolate for politicians) and many others. In 2009 our beloved WhatsApp kicked off (only 11 years old now) and wow! Instagram, 2010.

In between there was Snapchat (chocolate for young people), Tumbler and dating apps. These dating apps are really taking over how humans build relationships. Especially in the developed world. People still meet in ordinary physical settings – pubs, concerts, parties and so on, but favoured way of communication remains social media.

Thirty years ago it was fax and postal letters

Then phone texting...


Today. Today?

Are you on Facebook? What is your Instagram name? Are you ... are you...Oh, Wow! screamed the Americans.

Within that spectrum, there is the generational divide. People born after 2000 find social media tools and phone chats natural. To them, walking while texting is like a cup of coffee. So are 2020 ways of talking via video time, Zoom even internet porn: normal.


The older, post-1980 millenials somewhat adjust; DON’T moan. Just adjust. Accordingly. Comfortably. It is my generation, pre-1970 and beyond, who “detest” social media. I have friends who have vanished from my life. For them phone texting is a chore.



Prefer phoning.

I WANT TO MEET YOU UP...not stare at a glass screen, is a common protest.

Fine. I agree too.

Sometimes I find myself yelling at a young person walking and texting and bumping onto me. And she gets annoyed. Annoyed! Really pathetic. Then I remind myself – they do not know anything else! Just THESE gadgets.

I am lucky though. I know the old, “natural” world and these gadgets!

Just like cars, spoons and shoes; mobile phones are appliances.

Tools. Devices.

Social media is a tool.

So when we hear the older generation complaining oh social media is bad for us, we have to say why? Are cars THAT bad? Yes, cars crash and kill when not driven responsibly. Why would you drink and drive? Or drive without a seat belt? No. Don’t blame God. That is what a man said the other day.

“I drive fast and live fast. I do what I like. If God decides to take me, He can be my guest.”

Is that being responsible?

Like shoes, social media depends on usage. Skimming through Instagram for the first time years ago, I just saw egos. And narcissism. Self-love, self-adulation, self-pleasuring. There was a chap who would just post his face. Every single day. I used to ask myself. Is this his mirror? His bathroom? And ladies. Selfies and selfies reposted. Recently I have been “following” a young mother. Posting herself through pregnancy to birth and...

... Every single week a photograph (or movie) of the now six months old baby. Babies are really beautiful. We cannot deny. But every single week? And what happens to the young tot’s psyche? Being advertised like that so often? We know what happened to child stars. Like the most famous, late Michael Jackson. Or lately, Justin Bieber!

If you ask older individuals... that is their perception of Facebook and Instagram. That these apps are packed with narcissism.

Just like those who dislike cars, but need cars when it is night, raining BUT a lift, a ride has been offered. They cannot refuse.

Just like we need social media when there is something crucial.

Social media is a spoon to feed, ladies and gentlemen.

It happened three weeks ago.

This boy. Yusuf. A video clip. Circulated around. So most of us were either overwhelmed or just curious. The clip had no caption, no explanation...

Typical social media. Lots of video takers are amateurs. They do not know the ABC’s of traditional journalism. They do not answer the five W’s. Who, Where, What, When, How....

Go on. Share a video and viewers will figure it out.

So we wrote something about Yusuf’s footage.

Shared it on Instagram, with captions and a bit of the five W’s.

And everyone else was doing similar things.

Soon Yusuf was traced and here is the WUNDERKIND – as Germans will call a gifted child. No more dirty clothes, No more mould filled chairs. Last week Yusuf was pictured in suits and smiles and wow! our village boy is really charismatic. A potential star. A natural artist. Thanks to what? Social media and media in general.

Once again, let us applaud everyone who reacted. Especially the man who, initially, took a simple phone video of the unknown youngster.


Freddy Macha is a writer and musician based in London. Blog,