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Get this, social media ‘friends’ won’t help you much

Sunday June 16 2019

Each time I log onto Facebook, I come across

Each time I log onto Facebook, I come across people that have posted not so cryptic messages on their walls, messages that tell you straight away that they are going through a hard time. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP 

CAROLINE NJUNG'E
By CAROLINE NJUNG'E
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Whenever I’m feeling aggrieved, talking about what’s bothering me alleviates the hurt, disappointment or bitterness that I may be carrying inside. It especially works when I confront the source of my distress.

I am, therefore, a firm believer in voicing whatever you’re going through, talking about it, kufungua roho, so to speak. I also believe that the forum where you unburden yourself matters, and if you asked me, that forum is not social media.

I know, I know, we’re living in the age of digital revolution, a stage on which many of us play out our lives, which is okay, but I feel that there is something off when you feel the need to display your innermost feelings on, for instance, your Facebook page to total strangers, even though you call them “friends”. Once upon a time, that kind of vulnerability was reserved for our closest social circles, our parents, siblings or close circle of friends, people with whom you felt comfortable enough to open up to, secure in the fact that no one would judge you and that you would get heartfelt advice.

On social media though, the fact is that you might get ridiculed when what you were looking for was sympathy. Or sound advice. Social media can be brutal. I say this with a sad story in mind, a story that was reported in the media a couple of months ago about a young man who threatened, on his Facebook page, to commit suicide.

Several of his “friends”, perhaps thinking that he was joking, urged him on, daring him to make good his threat. The following day, he was dead, having actually committed suicide. I wonder whether the story would have been different had he reached out to an actual person, perhaps an actual friend, not a Facebook one who had absolutely no ties to him and who would not have been affected by his death.

Each time I log onto Facebook, I come across people that have posted not so cryptic messages on their walls, messages that tell you straight away that they are going through a hard time – messages such as “God, come through for me,” or “I cannot take it anymore” or, “Why me?!” or “this day should just end.” Many Kenyans are hurting, by the way, if such messages are anything to go by.

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Normally, this person’s Facebook friends will write something like, “It shall be well,” or “We’re in this together” some even “like”, which makes no sense at all, yet they have no idea what this person is going through, whether he or she is on the verge of being thrown out of his house or cannot afford food.

Bear with me, I am trying to make a case for why social media is not the best place to display your hurt. Or maybe I don’t get it, perhaps more Kenyans are turning to social media to relieve their hurt and trials and tribulations due to weakening social ties – let’s face it, we’re no longer the close-knit society we once were, and the place of family in an individual’s life has since shifted. If you asked those around you, many will tell you that family, in many cases, is not the first port of call whenever they need help or encouragement. Many have become estranged from family and live an almost solitary life, either that, or they consider their friends family. Isn’t this sad? Just when did this rain start beating us?

The writer is the Editor, Society and Magazines, Daily Nation. [email protected]

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