We Need To Talk About Social Media

OK, it’s a blatant play on the words of Lionel Shriver.  But it got your attention, so that’s great.

Listen: I know it’s becoming fashionable to bash sites like Facebook and Twitter, and I don’t want to add to the noise of all that.  I’m not a campaigner, or zealot, all about simple living meaning not having a computer, living like a Luddite, and basically hiding in a cave.

Though sometimes that’s quite an attractive idea.

I’m just worried.  And afraid.  Afraid of how we’ve all been led down a path of over-sharing and self-promotion.  Take for example “the selfie”.  A perfectly harmless bit of fun, whereby (just in case you have been living in a mountain-top cave for the past few years) you take a picture of yourself and post it online for your ‘followers’ to ‘like’.  Perfectly innocuous, you might say.

Consider this idea though: pre-social media and Smartphones, would you have taken a photo of yourself, sent it either by post or handed it to somebody you knew (or even didn’t particularly know) and said ‘look at me’?  My guess is not.  In fact, this idea, I’m sure you’d agree, is perfectly laughable.  Yet – isn’t that what we are doing online, really? Aren’t online platforms just a way of self-promotion and ‘look-at-me-ness’?

And yes, including this blog.  I started this blog as a way to follow my writing life, for myself, but also hopefully for others to read.  I opened a Twitter account for the same reason: to promote my writing and to find out about writing opportunities.  But tweeting one day about how awesome I felt at getting two pieces of writing accepted, a virtual high-5 kind of tweet, it struck me how empty I felt.  How I was, in real life, quite shy about talking about my writing, yet I was quite happy to post to anybody who followed me that I had been published.  Yet more proof to me that the persona I was building online wasn’t necessarily the ‘real me’.

Consider another situation I heard this morning regarding the selfie.  On a radio show, a young woman was talking about her Facebook page, where she would often share selfie’s of her day, perfectly innocent pictures of herself, as pretty much the entire youth of the world do all the time.  Unfortunately, a particularly unsavoury follower of hers, (who was a relative, which makes it even worse), chose to take those innocent pictures and upload them to a porn site.  They are still there.  Despite her constant efforts, they are ‘unable to be removed’ by the site.  Now, when she Googles her own name, links to that site and other undesirable places come up, leaving her anxious for the future of any new relationships she may have, or jobs she may interview for.

This young woman was still at school when some of those selfies were taken.  Does this not fill you with fear for yourself or your own children? It does me.

As I said at the beginning of this post, I’m not trying to live like a Luddite.  I get that it’s hard out there, trying to promote your creative work.  And I get that the world has changed and technology brings exciting new possibilities. But it also brings new challenges, and I think we all have to be more aware of these in future.

 

 

 

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