Social media expression: How much is too much exposure?

Summary

  • We all have access to social media and while it is well within our rights to use and post as we feel, there has to be an element of limitation to the exposure we give ourselves and the type of content we share. The line to toe then becomes understanding how much is too much.

We are the digital generation. When we meet, don’t ask me how I am doing. I will just tell you that I am doing well, whether I am fine or not. Neither should you ask where I stay or what I do. I fear I may not have time to answer all that; I am busy. But if you want to know all about me, follow me on social media platforms. My WhatsApp status, Instagram posts and stories, and Facebook pages will provide you with all that you want to know about me on a daily basis. You will get more than enough.

Social media platforms prevail among the youth, who have dubbed themselves the “digital generation.” They concur on the necessity of media platforms, all but the extent of personal information. Plenty is being shared on the media platforms, some of which raise mixed feelings. The opinions also differ, leading to the fundamental question: to what extent could a person express themselves on social media? The answers to this question vary depending on how the person is attached to the social media platforms.

The uses of media platforms differ from one person to another depending on the needs and intentions. Some are for business, others for education, and others just to share information. Once it comes to business, we all agree that the frequency of advertising through posts impacts the number of customers. On the side of education and sharing information, the frequency of posting is crucial, as is the quality of the information.

Concerning personal information, this is a sensitive area. The sensitivity depends on the content. The group that leads on this are the celebrities who wish to remain in touch with their followers. The audience on the social media platform is large, and the majority of followers like to get all the information about their celebrities. However, some of these celebrities have at times found themselves in hot water thanks to the content they share. In keeping up with their fans and maintaining their fame, at times these elites express themselves in a way that is subject to scrutiny, as there are fears of misinforming and misleading their followers.


Youth and social media

Turning our attention to the youth who are the subject of our topic, they have different opinions. When it comes to sharing or posting on social media platforms, there are those who feel that they could share as much as it pleases them—simply put, there are no limits. Soila Martine, 22, a student at one of the leading universities in town, is of this opinion: “I think you have the right to post whatever you like, as long as it makes you happy. If a person doesn’t like my content, they shouldn’t view my pages.” This implies that it is for the audience to choose what content they would like to view. It is none of the sender’s business. “I would express myself fully in the way I wish to. If I needed a certain issue to reach a certain audience, I would go fully on it if social media was the only way to reach them,” she says.

Social media platforms are considered an open ground to express oneself fully because of the large audience. They are the fastest ways to deliver one’s message and to become popular as well. They bring into contact people from different places and cultures who share the same interests. “I enjoy following sports news. I join various groups where the followers of the team I support come together. We chat, we argue, and we share important information about our team,” says Rodney Samuel, 21, a Manchester United fan from Mbagala, Dar es Salaam. Rodney doesn’t prefer to share his personal information for fear of critics and those who would not wish him well. “You will never see me post my achievements, house, office, spouse, and the like. People are jealous, so I am better off posting memes and funny videos, simply to make them think that I am not serious with life; it is better that way,” he says.

While others like Rodney do not take social media seriously, there are those who prefer to share most of their daily experiences, including their whereabouts, activities, and even their emotional feelings. “I find it useful; when I am happy, I make it known to my contacts, the same way I do when I am sad. I often receive consoling messages and encouraging comments. This helps me, as I realise that there are people out there who care,” says Cecy Julius, 25, from Kinondoni District.

There are those who are considerate of their audience and the extent of their influence. These prefer to share factual and educational information. “I can only share with the masses what I deem inspiring,” says Wendy, a lawyer and mother of two. Wendy feels responsible for whatever she posts on her social media platform, and she is aware of the impact she could have on her viewers through her social media page.

There is no doubt that the advancement of information and technology has indeed made the world a global village. This does not leave behind our children, as they are a crucial part of it. Keeping this in mind, we should be careful because children could access a variety of contents from social media. “Children are very clever; they could even unlock the pattern of your phone and even open a phone with passwords. They could view the content on your phone if you let them have it. They can even surf on your social media platforms,” says Neema Yohana, 28, a lawyer residing in Mbezi, Dar es Salaam. If our children could occasionally have access to our phones, then we should be careful with the content we share on our media platforms, for it might end up having a bad influence on them or scandalising them.

Some people are critical of the tendency to share almost everything on social media platforms. They insist on valuing one’s privacy, and they consider some uses of social media platforms unrealistic and could lead to disappointment. “I don’t like to disclose my personal life or my emotional feelings to the public. I feel that people lack empathy, so your feelings will eventually be disregarded,” says Maureen Noel, 25, a recent college graduate.


Psychologists say...

Speaking of the matter, Ms Elizabeth Bussi, a psychologist and a school counsellor at Dar es Salaam Independent School, explains that there is no exact limit on how people should share or post on social media platforms. We all have the right to share what we deem right, as long as we don’t break the laws of the country or offend anyone. The use of social media platforms could vary from person to person. However, there should be a sense of convenience, as too much of anything could be harmful. “There are chances that those who share almost everything on social media platforms could be having some psychological difficulties,” she relates. Some of these psychological issues are low self-esteem, loneliness, and attention-seeking behavior.

Low self-esteem is a mental condition whereby a person feels uncomfortable about who they are and what they do. People with low self-esteem tend to see themselves and their lives in a more negative and critical way. They often feel incompetent and inadequate. To combat this difficulty, they will always look for comfort and approval elsewhere. They will struggle to impress others by doing all they can to earn their applause. “A girl who struggles with the thought that she is not beautiful enough will often post her good photos or even use photo filters to achieve the look she deems perfect so that the viewers may praise how pretty she is,” says the psychologist. The same goes for boys who would wish people to see them as handsome and strong, as well as those who are old but will always post photos of their younger versions, so they may be considered still young.

Then there are those for whom being idle or battling a feeling of loneliness drives them to spend much of their time on social media platforms. These people will be more active on social media platforms and tend to share anything and everything. “There are some of my friends who leave me wondering about the amount of free time on their hands because of the frequency of posting on their platforms.You find a person posting something on their WhatsApp status almost every hour, and some post childish things. Where do they get all that time?” says Evergreen Erasmus, 26, a student at Jordan University College, Morogoro.

Attention seeking can be regarded as a tendency of attempting to attract people’s awareness towards oneself. This could be associated with low self-esteem, whereby a person wouldn’t feel good if they happened to go unnoticed. This behaviour is common for kids, who often strive to win the love and attention of their parents. Nevertheless, it becomes a psychological problem once it happens in adulthood. There are those who frequently post their whereabouts on social media so that people take notice of them. “I don’t see the logic in why some people often post what they eat, their houses, cars, and the places they go for fun. Some even fake their lives on social media. They only seek attention; they want to build a reputation that is not real,” says Jeff Thadeus, 32, a choir singer and music teacher.


Moderation is a virtue

Psychologist Eliza is of the view that those who share moderately save themselves from various issues such as misinterpretation by others and cyberbullying, which could cause distress and harm a person emotionally. “Just as people have different ways of perceiving things, so are their thoughts, which are different. Posting frequently may lead you to share controversial ideas, and you may end up being attacked,” she says.

Furthermore, it is obvious that one of the necessities of the social media platforms is to connect people regardless of distance as well as differences in cultural background. Therefore, it is important to maintain the good use of social media platforms in order to be in harmony with our associates. We should keep in mind that whatever we choose to share on social media platforms influences others and gives them an exact picture of who we are; as the saying goes, “actions speak louder than words do.”