Myanmar view of 21st century Facebook
A teashop that is not very far from downtown is quiet and beautiful, with blooming flowers opposite to it. On a-1997-summer day, a group of young guys were enjoying their time by sitting around a table. They were talking about their experiences from a seminar that they attended together. They discussed and shared knowledge with each other. As time passed, topics were changed from one to another. One talked about a book he read. Another one argued with him using some references. After a moment, the other one went to the counter and whispered something to the shopkeeper. As soon as he took his seat back, the whole teashop was filled with famous singer Htoo Ane Thin’s song. Everyone got absorbed in sweet music and forgot the summer heat. Lyrics brought them along with the song. That’s how they spent time in 20th century.
It was a Sunday afternoon of 2013. I was enjoying a cup of iced coffee at a bakery, which is situated just next to a busy road of city centre. It is quite spacious and private. No sooner had my thoughts ended that a group of teenagers entered the shop. By the time food was put on their table, they reached their hands to their phones and had their pictures taken. After that they checked in where they were and who they were with. Although they were eating food, their mind was wandering around their phone screens. Some of them were using one hand to eat and using the other hand to scroll down the Facebook page.
When I think of the past two centuries, I question myself if the trend have steadily changed or have suddenly changed. Things changed a lot. Places that young people use to enjoy years ago in Myanmar were teashops, libraries and movies. But today, Myanmar youths are much closer to cyber café and game centers than to any other social thing. They became very attached to this Age of Information Technology. Worse than that, they are totally lost in Facebook. I know Facebook is quite useful somehow, don’t get me wrong. You can work out things online such as mailing or informing instead of seeing someone in person. You can even visit the whole world or make friends throughout the world. You know what’s going on among your friends or in your country. You can save time for sure.
Blogging became popular among those who are competent in IT and interested in literature in the last 10 years in Myanmar. People wrote and shared their opinions on blogs. Because of the effort of an educated youth, even we waited and read eagerly about the Saffron Revolution on blogs before it could reach the international news. Later Facebook was replaced eventually.
Although Mark Zuckerberg and his friends created Facebook in 2004, it became popular in Myanmar around 2008. It attracted (still attracts) us as we were not familiar with social network at that time. We could know things about friends and family who lived abroad. We could read some popular news from around the world without buying a newspaper. At least we could gossip or criticize with friends without going out and having to meet them in person. Although the information on Facebook couldn’t all be right or reliable, we know many things easily without putting any effort at it.
But we must use it wisely. If we use it wisely, it can be a kind of medicine for us. If not, it can be a danger. The more you use, the less you earn somehow if your career has nothing to do with Facebook. I have seen those people who are deadly addicted to it without being able to concentrate on their duty at work, and those who pour out their feelings (good or bad or even in details) as if Facebook was their personal diary. Some even created a new life or a new world in order to hide from their real life. Plus some people are too naive and believe whatever they see or read on Facebook. Instead of reading useful information, people just want to know what and how others are doing at all times. Posts saying, “Good morning buddies” attached with photos are millions. I personally wonder if they have too much spare time to do so.
A year ago, an article from Times magazine said that this generation should be called the “Me Me Me Generation”. It is much more selfish and easy going than the previous generations. It doesn’t take any consideration about political and social affairs but highly focus on its ego. Today’s youngsters, whoever they are, have taken photos and uploaded every single special moment they live (not only special moments though). When many people like their photos, they are astonished at the “likes” from others. Can we say that it is one of the aspects of loving oneself too much?
One time, a writer said Facebook is like a toilet wall. People write whatever they like on (Facebook) wall. Other people drop a line or two to comment, or they may swear if they don’t like. It looks like if another person uses the same toilet as you and sees the status on the toilet wall. Yes, Facebook is sometimes messy with useless things.
The other day, one of my friends who have been working abroad told me his opinions about some Myanmar people’s comments on statuses. He said it’s a shame on us to see some rude comments especially on news about races and religions. He said it would be better to consider wisely before we criticize or comment.
It’s totally right. We must use it wisely and take advantages from it. I don’t mean that everyone in Myanmar is using it without proper purposes. Some do use it purposefully. I read about charities and social welfare issues, which are worked out through Facebook. Some celebrities lead those affairs and donate those in need. The people who love these celebrities joined them and helped.
Through those things, we should realize that we could apply Facebook wisely. We must ensure that we use Facebook, not that Facebook uses us. Instead of wondering what others are doing or eating, we must dig advantages from it. As long as we don’t spend time uselessly and as long as we are not victims of political correctness, I agree to say that we should use Facebook.
Article translated from Irrawaddy Magazine by the Mingalapar Forum team