Social media

Internet birthday cakes

by Maxwell Suuk

Nowadays

As more Ghanaians adopt smartphones and social media, the sellers of greeting cards are running out of business. In the past, people would send cards to friends and relatives on many occasions, including weddings, birthdays, exams, Christmas, New Year and others. WhatsApp, Facebook and other social media platforms are killing this tradition.

Today, people download things from the internet and forward items to others. The elderly complain that social media is killing family ties, but young people appreciate things like “internet cakes”.

Once upon a time, greeting cards were a strong business in Ghana. Beatrice Yiadom used to sell cards in Tamale for two decades, but she says that people are not buying anymore. The advent of smartphones has rendered her business useless.

Isaac Tingan also operates a shop that sells cards. He says that season’s greetings cards are no longer fashionable. “Business is slow,” he says. It now takes him a long time to sell a mere dozen cards.

According to Ibrahim Shamsudeen Taimako, who specialises in business models, people involved in such declining industries have only two options: they can phase out or diversify into other fields. “Once technology is involved, you have to think hard,” he points out. People are not writing letters anymore either, he says, and that affects the Ghana Post. Taimako says that business people must “embrace new technologies.”

Today, people send their personal messages through social-media applications. Only few Ghanaians prefer the old ways. Mary Amadu, a nurse, is one of them: “When I received a card, I felt that a friendship was appreciated.” She says electronic messages do not make her feel that way. Alhaji Suleman Zakari, a senior citizen of Tamale, agrees: “We are losing the bond.” Even people who live next door, he says, don’t communicate physically any more, only through WhatsApp or Facebook. In Zakari’s eyes, this trend is bad and erodes family ties.

Ghanaian society generally encourages strong community ties. Neighbours and families used to visit each other at evenings and weekends. However, Moses Ayamba, another senior citizen, says that his children hardly come home anymore. They prefer sending messages each day: “It is very annoying. My wife and I get a ‘good morning’ or a ‘goodnight’ from the children through WhatsApp, but we don’t see them.” He says that people did not stay away from their families in the past, but things are changing because of communication technology.  

 

Maxwell Suuk is a journalist and lives in northern Ghana.
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