I never expected that the world’s major social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, would be so important to billions of people around the world until last Monday when they were disrupted for seven hours.
On a personal level, we felt a huge void, as if we were in a room without the windows to observe the world. We were lonely because we couldn’t connect with our friends, and we were worried because they were shut off from us. We felt like we were missing something that we used to enjoy every day.
These platforms have substantially penetrated our lives and companies, and now dominate the vast majority of them. Government offices all across the world are now receiving data and requests via WhatsApp. Many businesses, particularly major ones, have made this application their principal mode of contact with their consumers. We now realise that social media platforms have evolved into a force that we cannot live without.
The disruption of the platforms opened our eyes to the dangers of what can be called “Social Media Addiction”. I listened to the statements of Frances Haugen, a former Facebook product manager, about Facebook’s prioritisation of profitability over user security and well-being. She highlighted the negative effects of platforms like Instagram, as well as the pitfalls of Internet addiction, such as negative impact on mental and physical health, financial and sexual exploitation, depression, and possibly suicide.
This does not imply that we should ignore social media as if it were a devilish creation. It’s like a knife that can be used to chop fruit or kill someone – you get to choose. For more than four decades, I have worked in advertising, and I know the significance of communication between people and markets. Designing an advertisement poster for Gulf Air in the 1970s was a major project, with a marketing message that lasted for years, but today social media platforms dominate the advertising industry. Many businesses now allocate more than half of their advertising budget to online promotion, including Google advertising services.
I was asked by a friend if this meant that the era of advertising on paper or on television, for example, was over. “It is the path of life and the development of any industry,” I said. Even in conflicts, the Ottoman Empire was able to sweep huge swaths of Europe and Asia because of its army’s efficient employment of artillery. Then came the tank, which Hitler used to sweep Europe with the assistance of artillery, then followed by ballistic missiles, aircraft, and now drones.
This signifies that any new advertising medium will not replace the old, but rather complement and integrate it.
All of this brings us to the conclusion that it is critical to guarantee that our children are ready to cope with and benefit from technology since it has become the core of work and development in all sectors. Now, even authors, painters, and artists, in general, will no longer be able to be successful and innovate if they fail to grasp or comprehend how to interact with technology and keep up with its evolution.