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Who are they talking to?

Who are they talking to?

The rate at which suicide cases is turning up these days is worrisome. Two days ago, it was reported that a first class graduate from the University of Nigeria Nsukka had committed suicide barely some days after the story of a young lad had committed suicide for failing his University Matriculation Examination. There are so many cases that have not been trending on the social media but have been happening. Suicide is not all about ending one’s life but also bring devastation to the family, society and the world at large.

And as the issue is becoming a major concern a lot of people at not doing anything. To some suicide is like a phenomenon that one should be considered as the best option to settle issues. On Facebook, one user called the young lad who had committed suicide a HERO.

The real question we should be asking ourselves is – who are the victims talking to? If someone who put an end to his life for an avoidable event is being referred to as a hero, then we should start looking at who our children are interacting with.

In the 80s and early 90s, when there were nothing like smart phones and social media, youths were involved in face-to-face interactions and physical contacts. Even when friend-making services such as pen pals was in existence, it was an educative form of making friends outside the shores of the country. Staying indoors was boring because there was nothing one would enjoy irrespective of the fact that we had televisions and radios. Outdoor events were more fun than these days.

It was very easy to talk to someone when one is faced with situations. Life back then was fun because there were hangouts and avenues for interactions. Parents paid attention to their wards and were able to notice any changes in their behaviors. Friends and the neighbors can walk up to parents and inform them of changed behaviors. This is no longer the case as some parents will tell you off.

With the advent of smart phones and social media, Nigerians have fewer contacts with one another. Parents have left the upbringing of the wards in the hands of technology. I can assure you that a large portion of the average Nigerian family hardly spend quality time together. Parents will come back from work and pick up their phones to start interacting with friends. The same thing with their kids who will hole themselves up in one corner chatting with the virtual friends he/she has met on social media.

Kids no longer do group work with their school mates instead they are more concerned with adult and destructive games on their phones. Parents have given access to their phones that anytime they drop the handset, the children will just carry it and do whatever they like. Even when these kids do hangout, it is not fun as everyone is so glued to their phones and virtual world. The real world is no longer in existence for them.

Friends at a hangout with their phones. Photo credit: Daniel Pocock

The social media is made up of communities of people from all walks of life. It is a combination of the good, the bad and the ugly. When a child is suffering from depression who does he/she confide in? You discover that in most cases, those whom they are supposed to speak to are not physically and emotionally present in their lives.

They rely on the advice of those whom they have made friends with on social media who in turn may end up introducing them to deadly options such as drugs and suicide.

A depressed black boy. Photo credit: Black Girl Dangerous

One of the factors that are influencing us as Nigerians is unnecessary competitions and comparative ideas among peers. There lots of kids between the ages of 4 and 15 using very expensive smart phones all because their parents want their peers to see them as rich. Another factor is the idea of “Non Disturbance”. Most parents don’t want to be disturbed by their kids and the best solution is to give them phones with facilities for games and internet.

Back in the days, you would see children living in the same communities playing together but these are no longer evident. School mates do pay visits but this is no more instead they have resulted in chatting via social media. Parents have even put fear in the minds of their kids that one will be shocked that a 24 year old university student is chauffeur driven to school. They cannot get into a bus and travel alone without assistance.

The solution to all these suicide cases is for parents to improve on the physical communication with their children and also to encourage their kids to go out and make friends. Staying indoors and being alone should be discouraged. Parents should become their children’s number one confidant and friends. They should also discourage over dependence on social media. If you must buy a phone for your kids under 15 years buy one that has lesser features.

Also the orientation agencies should visit schools and enlighten kids on the need for more physical interactions and less dependence on virtual friends.

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