Tuesday, 6 September 2011

The social side

Facebook. Twitter. Google Plus. MySpace. (anyone remember MySpace - I met someone on there who's still a good friend - want to guess who that was...?)

This then is SNS. Social Networking. I remember the day I first heard about it - someone in the office mentioned it as "the next big thing" but I didn't quite grasp how big.

Today one of my FB friends asked a question about why we share as we do. Is it about a neediness? About boasting? Showing off? Wanting to be "liked"?

I can only speak with authority from my own experience - and to an extent my observation of how my "friends" use these networks. But I confess to being shocked by some of what shows up on Twitter, and by the comments on the Facebook pages of those I am connected to less directly.

Putting that aside for another day - what of the interaction with those that I follow and who follow me, those I like, have befriended? Is social networking the evil some make it out to be? To be avoided at all costs? I don't think so.

Much of this blog has been about my journey through scoliosis surgery. Without online blogs, forums and groups where would I have found one let alone several hundred women who have faced similar hopes and fears in the face of such a huge operation?

I know of people who live alone, bereaved or unwell, who find online a community to talk to, share with, receive from.

Twitter in particular has broken down the barrier between "us" and "them" when it comes to the worlds of TV, music, the arts and celebrity. And it offers a direct means of communicating with and hearing from those on the ground at times of unrest, conflict, tragedy.

All of this has of course been documented elsewhere and in more depth. Today's blog post was simply prompted by the friend asking if our status updates demonstrate a neediness. Perhaps they do - but if that means that it is met in some way then is that such a bad thing?

Would we prefer to go back to the days before blogger, the internet, social networking and suchlike? Some may dream of halcyon days when back doors were left open and neighbours drank at each others kitchen table but for how many was that the reality?

Weren't there really rather more people sitting isolated in front of the TV, perhaps not having spoken to another soul all day, or if they did not having been able to share what they really needed to for fear of seeming out of order or inappropriate? (Did the postman really need to know about that marital disagreement or was it quite simply TMI...?)

Going back to my earlier comment on what I've observed on some Facebook pages, there is clearly still room for plenty of inappropriateness. But for the most part there is a place to take our questions, our thoughts and our ideas (that marital disagreement would have been right at home on Mumsnet).

Social networking allows us to share achievements we are proud of, to congratulate our friends, to ask for advice, to meet people (perhaps even a life partner...), to allow others to comment on our blogs, on music or films we enjoy. It keeps us company late at night, in the wee small hours, in times of illness or when away from home. It unites families and friends across the world, reunites us with those we "used to know". In short it is surely an enormous force for good. Like anything else that can be perverted, subverted, abused. But that doesn't deny its huge potential and I wonder if anyone reading this would seriously want to turn back the clock?

I'm writing this whilst England play Wales at Wembley. I used to knit, or read, or catch up on chores at such times but tonight I can at least sit in the same room as the men. Watching many TV programmes is made more interesting by watching the Twitter thread to see what others are saying about it too (#RedOrBlack vs #Corrie ?!)

Reading this through it seems very mundane and in no way ground-breakingly significant. But it's helped me to form my view having read my friend's question tonight. If Facebook shows a neediness then perhaps such a neediness is part of the human condition and we have done well to find a modern day solution. Part of the evolutionary process perhaps?

1 comment:

  1. Linda, you know my views of the World Wide Web, however, all said and done, just maybe you have a point. After all, where would I have been without your comforting messages and anecdotes to keep me focused in those early days? Everything has its place and in moderation can only do good. I guess a bit like a glass of red or two? Oh, I do so like reading your diary of the journey, you really shouln't stop yet! Luv K xx