Facebook Romance: a Misdirected Democracy

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Facebook is one of the popular social media platforms in Namibia with a large number of people of all ages from different backgrounds partaking. This platform serves as a unifying public medium where people are not limited in expressing their feelings and affections digitally. It has given us unlimited digital democratic freedoms, rights, but we are currently abusing them at the expense of our own reputations, social values, and images. We need to remind ourselves that democracy is a process where political and public decisions are taken by and with the consent, or the active participation even, of the majority of the people. In a democratic state, human rights and freedoms are protected by national and international laws that should be respected by all citizens regardless of their social/economic status, education level, ethnicity or religious group. Equally, digital rights and freedoms are also protected within the same laws as well as social media, ICT and other digital laws that guide and control the use of new media as social development tools.

Some studies have revealed that, relatively, there are more males on Facebook than females in Namibia. Yet, Facebook had given people from previously disadvantaged communities and families a democratic platform to partake in various democratic processes aimed at developing our country and villages. Nevertheless, to some people it has become a daily song to talk about sexual relationships and share sexually related videos and audios. To a certain extent some people are purposively recording personal and private conversations to circulate them on Facebook to shame and discredit others. These are signs of misguided and abused democratic rights and freedoms as enshrined in our constitution. It also means that we still have a long way to go before we start making use of Facebook as a platform that can give chances to the dislocated, marginalized and shy individual members of our society who previously found it difficult to engage in developmental processes due to the digital divide.

With the recent increases in the high rate of teenage pregnancies in different regions of the country, I took it upon myself as a social media researcher to briefly discuss the pros and cons of Facebook use and how it affects our moral well-being. Although being relatively new to us, the majority of our young girls and boys have access to these platforms directly or indirectly. Mostly they access these platforms without their parents’ consent as most of them have mobile phones that are not known by their parents. Additionally, some young people, especially of school-going age from well-off families, own mobile phones with loaded data all the time. The young ones claim that they need these mobiles for learning purposes. However, this tends not to be the case as having access to these unguided devices can give them access to pornographic pictures/websites of the “I don’t care men and women” of this country.

The young ones can end up watching sexual movies during break times or immediately after school, or even during class time, or if the school has a computer lab you may find them accessing these sites secretly. Interestingly, these young ones view pictures of attractive men and women on the internet and that alone can awaken their inner feelings and sexual hyper-sensitivity.

Once they are sexually activated digitally then after school they will think of all these things and will end up engaging in unprotected sex. All these happen due to a lack of digital education, especially inclusion of social media in different subjects as a topic or chapter on how it can promote sexual relations among young people.

Moral-wise, Facebook is used to promote lies and dishonesty among the youthful generation as some people have created accounts with fake names, fake profile pictures and fake everything for spying and stalking their fellow human beings. Their intentions are only known to them as to why they tend to use fake pictures and names.

Immediately you come across a friend request from a person with the above- mentioned characteristics, ask yourself a lot of questions before you accept that person as your friend on social media. Additionally, some individuals have more than one account on Facebook simply to have one account that they can use for anti-social activities. If you approach these individuals and ask them why, they will tell you it is my right to decide on the number of accounts that I can have on social media. These are clear signs of misdirected and rotten democratic avenues, values, and can only be rectified if we start doing the right things and conduct ourselves professionally and culturally on Facebook.

Try to do the following to avoid unplanned digital romance and to keep up your digital morals:
Do not have sexual pictures in your phones/social media account;
Always delete pornographic videos and nude pictures and other images;
Block numbers that send you sexual messages;
Avoid discussing sex and love issues on Facebook;
Do not upload sexually revealing pictures on Facebook;
Stop liking and commenting on sexually related threads;
Un-tag yourself from pornographic statuses and posts;
Work on your settings in such a way that no one can post any picture or statuses on your wall without you approving first.

• Sadrag Panduleni Shihomeka is a Citizen Engagement, Social Media and Politics Researcher at the School of History, Culture and Communication, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands. E-mail: shihomeka@eshcc.eur.nl

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