By Thilinika Wijesinghe
It was not so long ago when we realized that there should be a mode of communication where we wished we could connect with our high school friends and university batch mates who were far far away from us. And then when Mark Zuckerberg invented the ‘much wanted’ social media channel Facebook, the barriers were destroyed. And ever since we’ve been watching, stalking, learning from this amazing ‘book’ of faces.
While Sri Lankans are growing in terms of population on Facebook it is interesting to note that 6.14 Million Internet users, a 30% of the total population in Sri Lanka with 23+ Million mobile connections and 5 Million on Facebook are rapidly growing. For those in the rural areas of the country Internet means Facebook and it is quite surprising that many users are logged on to Facebook 24×7, 365 days.
How did this channel invade an Asian country like Sri Lanka? The main reason being the need to connect with people who are known and unknown to each individual. It also served as platform for relationship building and also to showcase talents to those who have stage fear.
Meeting a couple of ladies from different strata of society a casual chat with them made things simpler.
A lady, who’s in her early thirties, two kids and a very busy husband, sees social media in her life as a savior. Being a housewife she explains that it’s even more tiring than being a working lady. And during her spare time (which she scarcely has) she always logs on to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter just to know what’s happening around and this she says is a great stress buster. “Scrolling down the timeline of Facebook itself makes my mind free and keeps me relieved. Using and misusing this is different. The main benefit I get out of this is being able to see the world through just one click”.
Having said that, this typical behavior is seen in most Sri Lankans, from being on Facebook on the road, at meetings, at parties and even at religious occasions. Many Lankans use this medium as a way of showing that they are busy, by trying to ignore someone, to use it as a tool to avoid talking to strangers, to make sure they become unnoticeable and if someone is shy to ignore everyone and be on their own. A 26 year old who uses public transportation methods to travel to work every day says Facebook, Instagram comes in as a life savior. When strangers try to start conversations with her she uses the mobile to log in to Facebook and pretend she cannot see, hear or talk. A couple of years back she had used the headsets to ignore those she wants to and unfortunately a couple of times she had experienced missing out when her friends called her. And now this she feels is a great method to use.
Many local transportation methods pave the way for unwanted conversations to occur and Sri Lankan women have faced many issues while travelling on public transport. To date if a young girl travels in a bus there won’t be a single day when name calling, whistling or even trying to shout out different words occur. It has reduced to some extent since mobile videos of such incidents being caught on camera have been shared on Facebook and YouTube and certain acts have halted up to some extent.
A 55 year old lady living in the outskirts of Colombo uses Facebook and YouTube videos to develop her skills in cooking. She prepares the food as per the instructions and now even started he own cookery class. She shares recipes with the students and empowers them to start up their own SEM’s to grow in life. She says she currently has 23 students and 6 have already started their own businesses. “This gives me great happiness. I’m just learning through a free medium and teaching what I learn is something that I dreamed of. Facebook and YouTube have made my dreams come true.”
From cooking to DIY (Do It Yourself) videos to various life hacks being communicated through popular social media channels have enabled Sri Lankans to learn and see many things happening in and around the world and even show the world what we’ve got over here in Sri Lanka.
Being an experienced tour guide, probably one of the few female tour guides in Sri Lanka, a 40 year old lady says she uses Facebook, YouTube and Instagram to learn about different places of the country and even download those videos so that foreign tourists and travellers watch them while travelling.
Women who are burdened with many tasks of a busy daily routine find social media as a precious gift. They connect with friends, learn, and use it for work as a stress buster. There could be misuses of Social Media but the advantages and best uses are many that without an age barrier anyone can learn many things from these channels.