DELANEY DEWHURST WRITES–Paying for Facebook–a thought that probably hasn’t crossed most people’s minds. It’s a given that you log on at no cost to connect with family and friends by sharing photos, videos and updates on your life. Yet across the globe in Bangladesh, talks are underway about putting a price tag on social media.
This is because Telecom regulators in Bangladesh believe that the younger generation is spending too much time on social media. Their constant checking of social media platforms, they say, serves to distract tens of millions of students from their studies. Such excessive use also hinders the quality of social interactions. Teenagers might know the ins and outs of technology, but can they maintain conversations without checking their devices? Maybe not. To this end, Shahjajan Mahmood, chair of the Bangladesh Telecommunications and Regulatory Commission, has coined the term “digital opium addiction.”
Such excessive usage is not limited to Bangladesh. While social media norms vary in different cultures, the digital opium addiction is, to some extent, ever-present in the lives of teenagers around the globe. Why? Interpersonal communication and stimulation are a basic human need.
Nevertheless, regulators plan to put some level of price tag on social media to drive down usage. At the same time, Mahmood insists, the people of Bangladesh would maintain cost-free access to academic, business and research websites. It is hoped that this strategy would encourage wise, time-efficient use of social media as opposed to indulgence in its addictive properties.
Currently in Bangladesh, even the poorest of citizens can log on to Facebook for free.
Mahmood has another idea: adding content filtering to young people’s smartphones. However, this raises censorship concerns and may seem eerily close to the government’s 2015 three-week blackout on social media. In the best of all possible worlds, Bangladeshis will learn a smarter, more efficient way to use social media and will be free of digital opium addiction.