Sunday, 24 January 2016

Are social networks a good or bad thing for us?

I am sure you will have heard of the phrase "May you live in interesting times" it is after all an English expression which has always been believed originate from a translation of a traditional Chinese curse (although no proper source has ever been found for this belief). It can be argued that living in interesting times is either a curse or a blessing, really I guess it depends on what makes the times interesting. Wars are interesting in the history books but very few people would choose to live through one, especially a large one with heavy casualties. I guess a lot of it depends upon what you personally find interesting.

So where am I going with this? Well I am thinking about technology and most of all I am thinking about social networks and online communication. As a child in the 80's if your friends and family were busy then it was quiet an isolating experience, you basically had to watch TV or films, or play a video game, or read a book until someone needed you. When you compare this to now well there are so many countless chartrooms online with at least one being dedicated to pretty much anything you could want to talk about, you can write long in-depth electronic letters to friends and send them for free safe in the knowledge that the recipient will get them and will most likely reply sometime in the future.

So in a way we are never alone but some take it even further than that, some people sign up to facebook and then share every single moment of our lives, people will share not just how they feel on everything but what they have eaten for breakfast, tea and dinner. Do we loose something as people though when we loose these pockets of isolation? When someone places every moment of there life online and gets to control how they represent themselves can it actually lead to them losing a sense of there real self, are real thoughts and opinions pushed to the side in order to play some kind of digital game?

Yes I am arguing that to a degree social media is a form of video game, lets look at the reasons why I feel I can say this. For a start you have an objective, this objective is to be liked and to be popular. It can be argued that there is a score, the score can be seen as how many friends you can collect, how many likes you can get on one picture or one status. 

I have had a very off and on affair with facebook, I have spent time on there and then left it behind and then found myself back on it again and again (I currently am not on it). Yes I have committed most of the sins of facebook, I have found myself posting pictures of my food either because I am out somewhere and want to keep a photo of the moment or becaue I have prepaid myself because and I am proud of it. One thing I have always refused to do though is accept people as friends who I do not like in order to increase my friend list, this is for multiple reasons, one being that I dont easily drop grudges and another being that I can find it hard enough to handle the output of a handful of people let alone hundreds.

So I guess the whole point for me is that social media is neither a good or bad thing, its a tool and its how you use it that is important. having worked for an online anti bullying charity I have found that simply being able to reach out online for help can save lives but yet some people can also loose themselves in an artificial online world and loose touch with reality. I guess what I am saying is enjoy your online world but never loose touch with the real world and never loose a grip of who you really are and what you really believe in. I will end on a quote ''Be excellent to each other'' Bill S. Preston, Esq.

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