The dawn of technology, which has given birth to several digital innovations such as the popular Internet and social media, has brought about a significant impact on our society. Of particular interest is the effect which the use of these technologies is having on certain cultural values and customs that have been practiced for a long time in our societies.
For example, the use of social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tik-Tok have tremendously changed the way families and relationships operate. Today, our society has witnessed a significant shift on the way people used to interact. Perhaps, people, especially the youth, these days are more into Internet and social media-supported tête-à-têtes than physical ones.
Apart from helping people to get news and information on what is trending in our society, social media is supporting people to cultivate and raise friendships online than in physical realm. Today, people in public spaces, including minibuses, are always glued to their smartphones chatting with friends, ignoring those sitting next to them. Indeed, fast-disappearing are the old habits and days where people could meet a stranger on the street and ignite a fruitful conversation as social media has hijacked all those perfect moments.
There is no denying that today it is proving extremely hard to initiate a conversation with a person, especially women, in public spaces because people are always busy talking to someone on their WhatsApp or simply browsing exciting content on the Instagram, Tik Tok or YouTube. Dare to speak to a nice-looking guy or beautiful woman in public today and see if they are going to give you full attention. Unless it is your godsend day where you have been charmed by your ancestors to meet your promised friend whose phone is off due to the popular national wide electricity blackout or load-shedding, you are likely going to see them turning to their phones now and again.
If truth be told, the coming of digital technology, particularly the social media, has brought about a significant change in the way people interact. For example, people are not giving full attention to physical conversations with their counterparts as they are always obsessed with their smartphones. However, for someone with serious intentions like proposing, this tendency has proved to be a total turnoff. There is nothing that is boring as talking to someone whose attention is on their phones. Let alone approach someone who is putting on earpieces!
Unlike in the past, where people could bump into a woman in public and propose right away or schedule a follow-up meeting to get to know them better, today what people are asking are WhatsApp numbers and handles of their social media accounts.
While some sections of society commended the coming of technology which has simplified communication, some believe that it has culturally weakened relationships and bonds, particularly among family members.
“Social media has diluted our cultural customs which provided strong foundations for our existence. For example, in the past, before social media, family members could easily visit each other to spend quality time together and share old stories of sweet childhood. Sometimes, you could even visit some of the historic places like your old primary school where you used to enjoy certain things to enrich your memories.
But today, some simply dial a WhatsApp video call to chat with their relations in the village. Of course, this has provided an instant mode of communication, but nothing can beat the value of physical interaction,” said Prisca Golowa, a resident of Biw, Lilongwe.
She said physical interaction among family members bring sabout rife and lively interface, which does not only create delightful moments but also cements relationships.
She advised: “Social media should not make people lose their cultural values. They should still visit each other physically to interact and enjoy moments together. For example, people should go to the village to visit their old friends and enjoy the local foods they used to eat when they were young. They should visit their grandmothers and ask them to re-count those interesting stories and tales they used to tell them.”
When it comes to courtship or managing relationships people in the past were on record to have been writing funny and exciting love letters and sending each other still photos either by hand or post office. Letters with such powerful disclaimer or opening taglines like “Kiss to Kiss” or “Open with mwetumwetu” were the order of the day.
Young men and women who used to wear popular shoes like Moccasin and Sofia spiced up the local swag!
However, the modern generation has different school of thought on handling things such as relationships. They argue social media has simplified the way of life. With a simple click on the phone, then boom! You are able to stalk a woman or man and get to know them fully, including their relationship status, on social media.
The advent of online dating sites have also made life easier for some love seekers.
“We are living in the modern times and we must accept that because things will not always be the same.
For example, internet is helping us to get in touch with our loved ones, including girlfriends and boyfriends, instantly. These days, you do not have to wait for two or three weeks to hear from your loved one who is far away through a mail, but right away on WhatsApp or Facebook.
These instant communications help one to even monitor your relationships with people,” argued Ndiyani Matekenya of Area 25 C, Lilongwe.
However, some commentators warned that the Internet boom has birthed online scammers who are taking advantage to swindle unsuspecting people and bring about mental health issues.
Mental health expert Dr. Chiwoza Bandawe of the Malawi University of Health Sciences advised people to observe cybersecurity issues in order to stay safe online, including social media.