Gabriel Mario Rodrigues – Chairman of the Board of Directors of ABMES – The Brazilian Association of Owners of Private Higher Education Institutions
“Humanity is not divided into heroes and tyrants. His passions, good or bad, were given to him by society, not by nature.” (Charles Chaplin)
The technological future knocks at our doors and, without waiting for a response, invades our homes, our commercial, banking, professional and affective relations, in short, our lives. For a digital immigrant like myself, this fascinating new world may scare us because it forces us to get out of our comfort zone and try to engage in the myriad of innovations that are everywhere: smartphones, apps, ticket purchases, likes, tanned and “poked”.
eMarketer, an institute specializing in market research, estimates that by 2017, a third of the world’s population, or 2.46 billion people, communicate in social networking programs (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) at least one once a month. According to data from the annual census of social networks, this figure represents 71% of the total population of the global internet and represents a growth of 8.2% over the total number of social network users of the 2016 study. By 2021, eMarketer’s estimate is to have 3.02 billion people on social networks globally.
But in networks, what it has that is good, it also has that which is bad. One can at the same time serve heaven and hell. The case of Willian Waack, the reporter from from Rede Globo, which has had repercussions recently, shows this. As everyone should have seen, one of the country’s most cultured and brilliant journalists has been exasperated by the internet in a way exacerbated by thousands of Internet users. The anchor of Jornal da Globo was filmed saying an unfortunate phrase of racial connotation, completely improper, no doubt. However, there was a virtual lynching of a completely insane crowd venting its fears and deceptions over a citizen who gave a “ball out”. And who can not?
Leandro Karnal points out the consequences of virtual duality. The first, positive and undeniable, is that information is accessible to all people. It has ceased to be embedded, under the dominion of few elected masters and doctors. The second, negative and undeniable, is that it is available to all people. And that is where the danger lives. This ease in communicating that virtual networks offer has changed society as a whole. This intense – and almost dependent – relationship can bring many benefits to anyone’s life, but it can also do harms that can be embarrassing.
In spite of all the technological progress, the human being, from the beginning, tends to speak ill of his fellows to reach the most varied objectives, from a political alliance to the desire to establish social ties of defense or attack. Fake news, for example, can change the geopolitical configuration of the world. Cyberbullying, which uses web-based tools such as social networks and instant communicators to demean, incite violence, adulterate photos and personal data, is intended to create psychosocial constraints on the victim. And when this is a child or teenager, the damage is more indelible and cruel.
Studies show that social networks can ease some social loneliness – a feeling of emptiness and uneasiness caused by a lack of deep relationships – but significantly increase emotional loneliness – a sense of boredom and marginality caused by a lack of friendships or a sense of belonging to a community. It’s like feeling lonely in the midst of a crowd (and today, the crowd is increasingly virtual …). So, friendships are becoming more numerous (who never heard anyone boast about having more than 700 friends on Facebook?), But totally superficial. And the number of strong ties, getting smaller.
Many people use social networks not to unite, not to broaden their cultural or professional horizons, but to make gossip. To close in their comfort zones, where the only sound they hear is the echo of their own voices, where the only image they see are the reflections of their faces.
“The networks are very useful, they offer very pleasant services, but they are a trap,” warned the late Polish sociologist and philosopher Zygmunt Bauman.
The internet, and consequently social networks, an almost inseparable part of the lives of young people, brings risks with which, often, they are not prepared to deal. The latest ICT Kids Online Brazil survey found that 79% of children and adolescents between the ages of 9 and 17 are active on the Internet – 23.7 million young people, of which 85% are mobile users, with total privacy while browsing online, without necessarily having the mediation of responsible adults, which increases exponentially the dangers.
In June of this year, Google launched the “Be Internet Awesome” project: helping kids make smart decisions online, an informative platform for parents and teachers with principles for a secure internet. For kids there is an interactive game called “Interland”, where they must fight hackers, phishers, oversharers, and bullies, practicing the skills they need to be good digital citizens. The goal is to help young people make intelligent decisions on their own.
The technology that enabled the internet and enabled the networks of relationship was developed by the creative intelligence of man. But to build the ideal society there is much more to be done. The world is not perfect, the communities are heterogeneous and the people are individualistic. Each one always thinks first of what is most advantageous to him.
In this context the family is important, the creed also, and an administration by society even more so. But education has a fundamental role, because it is in school that the awareness of moral, ethical, justice, peace, solidarity and compassion values is strengthened, capable of building a less unequal and happier society. And why not use social networks as a tool in building a better world?