The headlines said Facebook costs businesses £14billion each year in lost time, and that social networks lead to a sense of isolation. It is just the latest day when the development of the online world is given a bashing by the printed media that it is now replacing. Not that the impact of the development of social media on newspapers would cloud their view of how the world is moving on. The fact that newspapers are disappearing, facing cuts and are fast becoming the communication fossils would surely not push them to print acres of column inches about how the world is doomed because of social networks.
You could be forgiven for thinking that for happiness or contentment we should all go back to using carrier pigeons and chalk and slate as our communication. The troubles of the 21st century are often placed directly at the feet of the Internet, computers and now of course all the forms of social networks. They are the very reason that we are in the worst recession for decades, that we have had no summer and are behind the breakdown in modern life.
Another latest media report is about the collapse of court trials because of the use of Facebook and Twitter. Victims and witnesses are searching Facebook and Twitter to identify suspects and this is leading to cases collapsing. Is this something new? ?No, for years the same thing has happened but that just happens in face-to-face conversations and through jurors looking through media coverage. The only reason this is news is that it is a relatively new phenomenon, a new manifestation of an age-old problem.
These are the same social networks that are helping to build communities and are acting as a key link to people either in the same geographical area or with similar interest. That has to be a positive thing – building communities even if it is via the Internet. Tomorrow, (Sunday 8 August) sees the first Twitnic in Manchester which sees a number of Twitter followers getting together, face-to-face, to meet, talk and build relationships. How has that happened? Well, they shared views via Twitter and now have a desire to take it to a new level. They will share those views in a verbal way when they meet. Don’t expect that to feature in the pages of any national newspaper. The only way that will be reported is through social networks.
And then there was the pressure that developed through Twitter that forced Air Canada fix a terminally ill boy’s wheelchair after it was damaged during a flight. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-10895108 That story only managed to feature in the Canadian newspapers and the BBC US and Canada section. You won’t see that one on the BBC News or ITV News at Ten. Why? Because it is a story showing the positive impact people can collectively have getting together through social networks. People power really working. It is under the umbrella of the Big Society so talked about at the moment. People getting together to make a difference to their community – wherever that community is, whether it is virtual or about those people living in my street.
We live in the 21st century and in a changing environment where new technologies are still being developed. In the 1970s we had only a couple of TV channels, mobile phones didn’t exist and computers were so big they had their own rooms. Did it make us all happier people who talked to their neighbours and were so focused that we gave 100 per cent at work every day? Not that I remember. Are we happier more contented people when we are isolated and have infrequent interaction with others? The real key to life in this century is to embrace the best from social networks. To view them for the positives that they can bring, whether that is to fix a young boy’s wheelchair or to allow people to get in touch with each other at a Twitnic. Alternatively, you could just put me back into isolation.