Quoting Others Worldly Fragments

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

While chatting to Safiyyah a couple of days ago, a highly edifying discussion, as many of our interactions go, we somehow came up to the invasiveness of mobile instant messaging services like Mxit. While the Mxit service has had its fair share of bad press, the service is phenomenally successful. It aims to secure five per cent of the world’s GSM subscriptions to its services within the next five years. It’s cheap, accessible and essentially, it is the indispensable toy of a socially-inept generation. A generation who attend a wedding, traditionally an opportunity to meet other people or enjoy the company of people you do know in a congenial atmosphere, only to veil themselves with their mobile telephones, a generation who throng to to the local Nescafe in numbers, only for each to unsheathe their phone as they are seated, and then grudgingly acknowledge the waitress, frowning on her invasion of the bubble in which they live. Safiyyah rightly asks, “Do you want people with you wherever you are?”

But I wonder too, if that’s it- do services like Mxit, or even social networking sites like facebook, rescue us from a sense of isolation? 

Steven G. Jones’ Virtual Culture- Identity and Communication in Cybersociety- which although written in the late nineties, is a fascinting treatise on the two sides to the impact of technology in society :

” …It seems quite commonplace to us that every technology has two sides to its consequences, on the one hand for every technology we develop in an attempt to improve life, we believe we also will on the other hand, find life impoverished in some way. Such has been our experience with a variety of technologies, from nuclear power, with its capacity for generating electricity and for destruction, to the written word, with its capacity for preservation and dissemination of information and for its origination of silent readers. Once we are accustomed to a new technology we accept both sides, preferring, one suspects, to assume that as the technology is refined its negative consequences will also be better engineered.”


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