by Dr Marlene Attzs Sooping-Chow
As I pen this column I am preparing myself psychologically for the fact that ‘d Carnival’, is almost over. The sun will soon set on what has been dubbed “the greatest show on earth”—sentiment not shared by all, who can’t wait for it to be over!
Christians then usher in the Lenten ‘season’ which is also one of my favourite times of the year since Lent signals a period of renewal—an opportunity for introspection and ‘spring cleaning’ of the mind, body and soul.
Carnival has brought with it the usual set of controversies but also the distractions away from serious, sobering and at time depressing national issues. For example, governance is at an all-time low in my view— just follow the Police Service Commission search for a Police Commissioner debacle (roll eyes); crime continues to soar— I am afraid to check the latest count but I know it’s HIGH (roll eyes); and we pick up the daily papers to see various embassies issuing warnings to their compatriots hoping to visit T&T for carnival while murmurings of “plots to disrupt Carnival 2018” abound. We seem to be spiralling purposefully out of control. But then there is Lent.
I read a recent newspaper report that Archbishop Jason Gordon was calling on the national community to “Fast from social media for Lent”. Interesting. I fully appreciate the intent of the call for abstaining from social media but I suspect fasting from social media would, for many Trinbagonians, not be a “fast” but rather it would be tantamount to suicide!
Just to be clear, social media refers to “… websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking”. Included among these are the Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchap and WhatsApp, to name a few.
But there is good reason to support the suggestion. In a 2017 instalment of this column, I quoted Dr Eric Williams who famously quipped “Bacchanal and confusion cannot be the foundation of an orderly society”. To me a lot of what is consumed on social media is feeding a national appetite for bacchanal and confusion.
I often voice the lamentation that we have become a ‘corbeaux-like’ country, taking delight in things ‘commessive’ and using Facebook, Instagram and the like, as the vehicles to fuel our tastes for the macabre and distasteful. Just to be clear, social media is a wonderful, useful invention that has made the world a global village allowing many persons to share ideas, perspectives, stories, and illuminate misdeeds on a variety of issues.
But along with the benefits of social media come the costs. We circulate with alacrity videos and photos of the latest bloody murder, the latest fatal road accident, gun-toting criminals and the like. Children are being raised on a diet of social media, from ‘WhatsApp-ing’ at all hours of the day and night to having Facebook and Instagram accounts that parents sometimes are unaware of.
I am in no way advocating that as a society we should not enjoy the benefits of the World Wide Web especially given my own constant use of the internet for work and leisure. That said, there is the need for moderation.
A contributor to Forbes Magazine of June 2017 suggested there are ‘6 Ways Social Media Affects Our Mental Health’. Among other things social media can be addictive, it can trigger more sadness (less well-being), can trigger jealousy (comparing oneself to the Joneses for example) and having more friends on social media doesn’t mean you’re more social.
One perspective is that we seek solace in social media to compensate for what is lacking in us as individuals and in our society. The goings-on that are negatively impacting our lives either on the political, governance, crime or economic fronts all propel us into an abyss of gloom. Social media, with its fake news, fake family values, fake morals and fake politics, gives us some sense of respite, however misguided and temporary.
But then there is Lent—an opportunity to break free from bacchanal and confusion.
As the sun sets on Carnival 2018, I congratulate ‘Voice’ (Aaron St Louis) on his accomplishments thus far and I thank him for sending a positive message not just to youth but to the entire country. I also renew the call for this to be the ‘Year for love’. That’s just my point of view.