Resist the itch to ‘snap and send’

Saturday November 11 2017

 technology

Facebook. We work, do business, meet friends and have fun on digital space. It is where we live. FILE PHOTO 

By SAM WAMBUGU
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Like a river that has broken its banks, posts and pictures on social media have gone wild.

Armed with smartphones and tablet computers, there are people who have an insatiable desire to snap and send.

Hastily and thoughtlessly, they type messages, take pictures and record videos, and get them online in a flash.

They then fix their eyes on the screens, nervously tracking the number of likes and comments.

IMPACT

Most of the pictures and messages are innocuous. In any case, that is what fuels and feeds social media.

Some of the posts are, however, gravely insensitive.

They derive pleasure from sending chilling pictures of dead bodies or dying victims groaning out of an accident.

Instead of lending a hand to the hurting, their instinct is to whip out their phone and hit the camera button.

BEHAVIOUR
They record or turn the internet inside-out hunting for heart-wrenching pictures, and share them without hesitation.

Don’t they stop to ponder the effect of those grisly images to the family, especially children?

Is it out of ignorance or have their human instincts frozen?

What gratification is there in sharing salacious graphics that upset and traumatise those who watch them?

Why is this insensitive behaviour only common in this region of the world?

GRAPHIC IMAGES
Last Sunday, a gunman mowed more than two-dozen people at a church in Texas, USA.

A few weeks before, in the same country, over 50 people were slaughtered by another murderer.

In a country where practically everyone has a smartphone and unlimited internet connection, did we see pictures of victims strewn all over the net?

What would have happened, God forbid, if those incidences happened in our country?

We work, do business, meet friends and have fun on digital space. It is where we live.

TECHNOLOGY

It is fast-growing and the growth-graph will not taper off soon. Africa is billed as the fastest-growing frontier for technology.

In Africa, internet signal is blinking even in the remotest of places.

The region once tagged “the dark continent” is now home to bleeding-edge tech innovation.

Without norms, behaviour and rules to live by, we are building our online lives on quicksand.

VALUES

The culture of thoughtless and heartless photographing and posting is not one that we want to bequeath to our children and generations that follow.

We need to teach our children – right from the beginning – their responsibilities as digital citizens.

They need to learn that a smart device is like a tongue; it can be used for the good and for the bad.

They ought to be taught that when content goes online, it carries with it the sender’s information.

It carries hidden information about the device that captured the picture; where the picture was taken and when it was taken.

ROLE MODEL
Years to come, material previously posted online could be used for, or against us.

That content could be used to influence decisions that affect you.

Children of our children could access the content we post today – and see what their grandparents stood for in their youth.

As for the grown-ups – you and I – let’s stop the itch to use technology to glorify misfortunes in our society.

If a picture or video doesn’t look right, don’t share. The grieving family is already in untold agony; don’t add salt to bleeding hearts.

IDENTITY
It is an illusion that using pseudonyms, avatars or fake profile pictures keep our online presence secret.

The truth is, there are smart tech tools that are used to piece together bits and pieces of online information, and reveal the real person.

Besides, cybersecurity has become the new battlefront.

Cyber-surveillance sleuths are trailing each online profile.

They secretly filter and analyse posts that contain certain words, and graphics that fit certain criteria.

The simple rule is, if it doesn’t look right, don’t share. Resist the itch!

The writer is an informatics specialist. [email protected] @samwambugu2