July 31st, 2013
As a hypnotherapist I have for years been advised to “make use of social media.” Perhaps because of my age I have an instinctive distrust of social “networking” and all it stands for. I have, somewhat grudgingly, acquired a Facebook page, which serves a use as an on-line directory and as an easy way of contacting friends who have moved away. At Twitter, though, I draw the line.
I’m sure that Twitter has its uses. Only yesterday, travelling on a train, I was invited by a rail company to “follow” them on Twitter. Useful if you need constant travel updates. And I’m sure that Twitter can also be a force for the good when it comes to campaigning purposes. But I won’t use it myself. Here’s why:
140 characters is not enough space in which to state a coherent view of anything worth speaking about. Nor is it enough space to offer an impartial and fair commentary on the views and opinions of others. All it offers is just enough space for a mere chirrup of opinion. (The word “tweet” is astonishingly apt). “I think this” or “I like that” or, more often, “I hate x or y”. Just what the world needs – an endless slew of knee-jerk opinions.
Yes – Twitter is democratic. Anyone can have his or her say, from the most high-profile celebrity to the most ordinary and average man / woman on the “Clapham omnibus”. The result? “Tweets” of the most shocking vacuity from celebs, who now appear to think that the most trivial thought which enters their heads is worth inflicting on their “followers”. A recent tweet from a very rich and high-profile rock-star: “Dreaming of pizza”. Great! More worryingly, Twitter has become a place in which people can fire off threats and insults from behind the comparative safety – and anonymity – of their computer screens.
The vile abuse levelled at Ms Criado Perez, Mary Beard, Stella Creasy and others provides ample demonstration that Twitter can appeal to the lowest and basest instincts of the human race. On the rare occasions when these “trolls” are arrested or otherwise exposed, the perpetrators of this abuse suddenly become apologetic and contrite. There is a word for this: cowardice.
From a broader perspective, social networking seems to be influencing our ways of communication with each other at the most basic level. A few weeks ago, following a long walk, I was in a pub, having a pint and waiting for my wife to collect me. A young man and woman came into the pub, sat down and ordered lunch. They were obviously in a relationship. But throughout their lunch, although they were speaking to each other, their main focus of attention was the little screens of their iPads or Smartphones, or whatever they were. Two young people – texting, not talking.
Who knows – perhaps they were tweeting each other…