Have more to fuel your ignorance: social media and intellectualism
By Ganiu Bamgbose
It is incontrovertible that the social media has come to stay. Its use, misuse and abuse are what writers will continue to address. Countless are the benefits of social media. The different platforms have become the oil with which the yam of friendship, relationship and companionship is eaten. They have become succour out of boredom and they are to the 21st century what the television was to the 19th and 20th Centuries.
As relevant as the social media is, it has its many disadvantages in different realms of life. One of such challenges is that social media has shrunk real life bonds among people as complaints such as “S/he spends all day chatting” is now on the lips of many people across the globe.
The focus of this article is to create awareness on the extent to which social media has resulted in annoyingly low intellectual state among all classes of people. I have in a previous article titled “Illiteracy, ill-literacy and heal-literacy” emphasised the contribution of social media to literacy rate. The need to belong socially has pushed many adults to adult education classes for the purpose of literacy. This advantage notwithstanding, social media has promoted literacy and ill-literacy at the expense of heal-literacy (see my earlier article for clarification on these terms). One of the manifestations of ill-literacy as facilitated by social media is the disappointing decrease in intellectual sagacity.
Fredrick Douglass once said “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free”. But he said this when reading was an intellectually engaging exercise. And I mean before the advent of social media. The reverse is pathetically the case as reading seems in this age to shrink people’s ability to think. People share nonsensical information and fabrications and when they tell you they have read it somewhere, you are immediately forced to ask: Even if you’ve read this, don’t you think about the things you read and then take your stance?
In the past, that which is written used to be taken as authentic and reliable. Sadly, gone is that age. The poor intellectual state of many readers and the lack of depth in many posts make one ask: what do people read on social media? This question reveals the preponderance of fake news and other logically unfounded posts.
Writing used to be the business of the noble and the informed. Now, any idiot can write and writes. And unfortunately, this category of writers who do not need to have anything to say before writing is the dominant class on social media. The social media has now become a space for thoughtless and illogical writings available for lazy and myopic readers.
In an informal survey of three ND 2 (National Diploma) classes in one of Nigerian polytechnics, I discovered recently that 70% of the students who use Android phones did not know how to get on Google on their gadgets. Aside their call logs, contact lists and gallery, they can only navigate through their many social media. In an age when lecturers have stopped reckoning with Wikepedia, there are still many students who can’t even handle Google search. Many do not know that gone are the days you necessarily have to buy a newspaper, all of them have their online versions now. But unfortunately, an average Nigerian relies on the information on social media and would rather become an unpaid distributor of such news than to get the news verified. As an English researcher, when people ask me questions on wrong usages in English, I sometimes tell them: your data with which you have chatted me can help you get an answer to this question on Google.
This article is an appeal and a reminder to people that reading is an intellectual engagement which demands questioning whatever you read and subjecting same to logical validation. A generation of literates who have no depth are not different from illiterates who cannot pronounce words. People are advised to also get on other media such as educational media(academia, LinkedIn) and to utilise Google search to broaden their knowledge. Google is such a big gift to the world. It has something to say on everything. It presents you with different perspectives to any issue which can help you arrive at a logical conclusion on any topic. As the social media presents us with more and more platforms to lavish our days (Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat), it is our responsibility to put these platforms to positive use and to also visit other media that can help us deepen our reasoning.
As contained in the University of Ibadan anthem, “A mind that knows is a mind that is free”.
(c) 2019 Ganiu Abisoye Bamgbose (GAB)
University of Ibadan