Social media is anything BUT social.
by John Darvall
In the last week we have learnt that Twitter will go the way of Facebook. It will be floated on the stock market and it will make heaps of cash for its creators. What started as a wacky idea, so the story is told or should that be sold to you and me, evolves into another bit of social media growing up and coming of age, with a very big price tag. That great modern voice of today is wrong on this one. It is about the money, money, money.
Millions of people have got on board the social media trend; they have friends and followers and judge themselves by the numbers of friends and followers they have. And if you don’t have enough, you can actually buy some. Then you can have even more friends and followers hanging on your every update, like or tweet as you share your world with all those who you may naively think are hanging on your every thought, word, deed, and tweet. Is this the 21st century at its best?
Then there is the appalling bullying on social media, by cowards and rampant ‘ists’ who hide behind silly names and ridiculous prejudices or twisted views of reasonable ideas or faiths. See my earlier blog on ‘isms’ and ‘ists’.
The painful reality for you and me is that we have actually got few real friends and those who aren’t real friends don’t really give a stuff about you. A real friend is the one you call at 3am and they say ‘where are you’ and ‘I’m coming to get you’.
Social media is a con trick, pure and simple. Have you ever responded to an advert? Have you ever clicked on a link and thought ‘I must have that’? At best it may subtly influence you but there is no tangible link between adverts on social media and success. Please prove me wrong. Please. I beg of you.
But there is a bigger con that is on here. It is one of self-delusion and one that, if you really think about it, is true. NOTHING beats talking with real friends face to face or on the phone, telling real friends about a book, film, new restaurant, your latest change of washing up liquid. They know you speak the truth. Followers and friends on social media will never ever have that power yet social media cries this power to you. The reality is that it’s nothing more than the King’s new clothes and I call it ‘in the altogether’.
The value of Twitter, Facebook, et al is spreading information to the like minded and that’s it big win. You can let people know what is happening, a 21st century notice board or parish magazine, but nothing else. It is certainly not source of real friends or followers. Ask yourself this one last question. How many of these digital hoards and digital hangers would you invite into your home for dinner?
One last point that shows social media does have some value. In the last three weeks four stories have been covered on my daily BBC programme thanks to twitter and tweets sent to me, and there are two more stories coming to the boil, one of which will be very big indeed. I can say no more now but I will, on twitter (which is linked to Facebook) when I can.
Nice blog. There’s also the issue of when social media crosses the line from being ‘anything but social’ to ‘downright anti-social’.
As a parent, I was always of the opinion that – if properly used – social media would be a harmless way of my kids staying in touch with friends and family (when they’re old enough). Take Facebook – if you only follow your friends, and have a reasonably locked down profile, then you’re fine.
Or so I thought. You can be friends with the squeakiest cleanest people, and have the most locked down profile and still be exposed to the vulgarity and unpleasantness that many otherwise normal social media users think is acceptable.
Facebook sends me adverts. It’s how it is paid for. But just try clicking on the ‘comments’ section of those adverts. Despite the fact that all my Facebook friends (you included, Mr. D.) are of the highest social standing and etiquette, I am exposed to tirades of abuse from anonymous morons who incessantly lambast these advertisers, either for the quality of their products or because they dare to pay to use Facebook, somehow unacceptably ‘spamming’ peoples’ timelines. The phrase ‘**** off my timeline you spamming ****’ seems to be a favourite. Not least, ‘Your is ****’. And all sorts of other variations.
So, when my children are 14, will I let them near Facebook? Not unless the site can do something to stop them being exposed to these ‘trolls’ who want to pollute the air with their vile language and views. It’s like sitting on a train with your mates, listening to the people in the next seat shouting and swearing.
Although maybe by the time my kids are old enough, they might actually want to TALK to each other. Let’s hope.