BY MPHO KUHLMANN
Pictures of devil may care bad boys with soul gazing eyes and celebrities in their debaucherous rhapsody are the rave of Facebook and Twitter feeds. Whether on you face or subliminal, turpitude has gained a malevolent allure among Botswana’s youth, giving a fresh wind to Botswana’s drug and alcohol addiction.
Botswana seems to be sailing too close to the 1960 hippie counter culture that glorified drugs and incited the general revulsion of straight laced goody two shoes.
Dr Sethunya Mosime, senior Sociology lecturer at the University of Botswana says substance abuse is glorified casually on social media.” Social media has given rise to a new term “virtual peer pressure”. It is the type of peer pressure kids and even young adults face online almost daily. What seems to be a cool platform for connecting with friends has become a weapon for those who don’t care about being discreet with their drug use without realizing the impact of their actions. There aren’t any secret codes in social media anymore, to figure out which hashtag will lead to which drug; it’s pretty straightforward. Anyone looking for marijuana can simply look up it by hashtagging it and if they’re looking for specific “recreational drugs,” then they can easily find them under their specific names.”
With the rise of social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other channels, Botswana has become a classic example of the Hippy decadent 60s on steroids. Hard partying is an accepted normal and addiction has become mainstream. Drugs on social media is a two-way street ÔÇô one of temptation and one of recovery. Consumption of illegal substances is normalized and glamorized in high-definition pictures and videos. Drug use isn’t something that is limited to celebrities and strangers; now, friends (and even family members) can share a picture of a row of shot glasses, a joint of marijuana, or even harder and more dangerous drugs with hundreds of contacts, all at the click of a button. The instantaneousness of the connection also allows users and their dealers to stay in touch through instant messaging programs that are often part of social medial platforms. Drug dealers typically don’t sell substances on these social media sites with blatant posts proclaiming “Drugs for Sale!” Instead, they use imagery and hashtags to engage interested buyers.
Ofentse Mokgware a second year student at Botho College in Gaborone says “drugs are casually spoken about on social media, our own BW rappers glamorize them because some of them actually use. We all know that imitation is a form of flattery and people are going to do what they see being made “cool” on social media. You get on any social media platform and you see posts about being belligerently drunk and being hungover or being buzzed and people praising it.Alcohol is promoted on social media by the party animals with beautiful chicks and guys people aspire to be friends with.
Glorification of addiction through social media can contribute to substance abuse in several different ways but one that has caught on is the posting of online pictures depicting friends or other people drinking, using drugs or passed out.
Dineo Tema a cashier at Mr Price retail store in Gaborone says “the pressure to fit in is very real. It’s sad that we’re on social media with kids as young as 12 who see how hyped substance abuse is now; the “friends” and “followers” they keep on their social media accounts can become primary influencers. Unfortunately, this can magnify the glorification of drugs and alcohol, pushing the epidemic of abuse and addiction to an even earlier age. A16-year-old kid could be friends with their older brother’s varsity friend, which could possibly mean photos of parties with alcohol flowing and possibly drug use. The desire to be older and act like what you see and perceive as popular is nothing new, but social media has amplified the reaction. The reality is that teenagers that see posts about drugs or alcohol are influenced by what they see.”