Saturday, May 29, 2010

Young People And Social Networks

So I decided on the subject of today’s blog after my twelve going on thirteen year old brother came home from school Friday afternoon all smiles with the news that he’d finally gotten himself a Facebook account. He’d signed up, as he very happily put it. Apparently the authorities who run the computer lab in his school allow for a bit of web surfing time to the upcoming teens, and almost all of them found the most popular site in Africa irresistible. Now my brother, he’s barely a teenager, not nearly old enough to sign anything, and from what I know of signing on to a social network like Facebook, you have to be a certain age.

So I got to asking him how he was able to do achieve this magnificent unprecedented feat, but stupid me, shouldn’t I have known! The internet, and in this case Facebook, as we all know, or like to think we know anyway, isn’t exactly this artificially intelligent super machine able to determine the true age of a user merely by the speed of their typing. It’s controls couldn’t be more open to manipulation. All you needed was a little embellishment of your age and you’re in. And that is what my little brother did. Seems simple enough, right? But why go to the trouble?

Why does a twelve year old already overburdened with homework, suddenly feel such a strong need to be on a social network? Because as far as I can tell he has enough networking going on with his outdoor-loving friends. Could it just be because he sees his older brother on the phone(on Facebook) chatting away with friends and sharing opinion on social issues and to see who poked him, and wanted so much to be part of this community? Or could it simply be the age-old syndrome of younger brother wanting to be like older brother? Perhaps it’s both. But the way I see it, the former is more likely the case, seeing as the onset of the 21st century ushered in an age of digital technology akin to the genetic makeup of young people. The internet and all its benefits including social networking. Young people all over the world, including myself, love to stay in touch with each other, and have loved to do so since time immemorial. What has changed in the 21st century is that we are no longer just staying in touch by meeting face to face on campuses and in parks and at church. We’re meeting up even when hundreds of miles apart. And we’re making friends with people we’ve never met. And that is what’s cool about all this!

I remember the period before I joined the community of social networking, every where I turned there was talk about a particular social network be it Facebook or Twitter or MySpace. And the pride that went along with it. Oh, I’m on Facebook and Oh, I’m on Twitter! Used to wonder what the fuss was about. And then I couldn’t listen to a radio programme without hearing the words “And you can post your comments on our Facebook page”. Apparently there was a whole community of people from all over the world out there somewhere sharing thoughts and opinions that I was missing out on. And seeing as I’m not one to miss out on big things, I joined Facebook. And now I can say “Oh, I’m on Facebook and Twitter”. And it was great. Still is great(most of the time). I made new friends with people from all over the world. Blacks, Whites, Asians. Absolutely no boundaries whatsoever. Not the colour of your skin or tone of your accent. It was just a big bunch of likable people willing to extend a virtual hand of friendship. And I haven’t looked back since then. But it hasn’t been all rosy, I can tell you. It hasn’t been all rosy. There have been times when I’d thought of signing out and never coming back. Why? Well here’s why.

Because it tends to get addictive. No sooner have I woken from bed and I just have to go online and see who poked me, sent me a message or said what. I used to brush my teeth before I spoke to God in the morning. Now I go online before I brush my teeth. My email inbox used to do that to me, but now it’s Facebook. And that’s not even the worst part. More often than not you get to make friends who post interesting things on their page. Posts you can think about and comment on. And then there are the ones who seem to have nothing but, excuse the language, absolute crap to say. Posts that have no meaning whatsoever. Talking about body parts and sexual innuendos over and over again. But you can’t unfriend them since they send you birthday wishes on your birthday! Then again it just might be the freedom that comes with social networks. I’ll tell you this, no matter how bad a post might be, or however irritating it is to have someone tag you a photo, it only goes to highlight how much freedom there is to be had with social networks. And that is why young people are so smitten with them. Because, like one female Facebook friend of mine said, “It’s an avenue to make new friends and reunite with old ones, and even meet your future spouse!” I bet she’s looking forward to that one. Another one observed, “It’s a place to speak your mind freely”. Because so much of Africa has been under military dictatorships for so long, and the consequent lack of freedom of speech it brings, and because so many of Africa’s youth have missed out on the experience due to wars and conflicts, I guess we will jump at any opportunity to be normal free-speaking, opinionated youths!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Welcome To My Blog!

Hi, there, all you potential visitors to and readers of my blog. Welcome! I hope you find the thoughts of an imaginative and opinionated young man interesting. I know I do. My name is Nana Kwarteng, and I’m an aspiring writer. I’m also an ardent supporter of everything youth and young people, and this is my blog. This is my mouthpiece. It’s is a site devoted to the problems and concerns of young men and women, from social issues to politics to identity conflicts. If it affects the youth, it’ll be blogged about.

Young people of today, including myself, are more aware of the world we live than ever before. We’re concerned about our future, the environment, our various national governments and it’s politics, and we want to talk about them. More importantly we want to be heard when we talk about them, seeing as we’re the beneficiaries and sufferers of all that goes on in the world today. And what better way to be heard than through the liberating medium of the internet. Through blogging!

So over the coming weeks and years(hopefully) expect to be inundated with blogs on all issues from dubious politicians manipulating young people for a selfish evil end to crazy social topics like relationships. Cause if it affects the youth, it’ll be blogged about.