Help me out here. I really can’t decide. Is social media a good thing, or is it really the beginning of the end?
When I was a young fella living in the suburbs and before we took a tree change and moved to the country, I would spend a lot of time with the kid next door who was my age and went to the same primary school. He was a cartoon watcher. I never have been, to be honest. In my household, morning TV was non-existent and so I grew up think it was inappropriate to watch morning TV. If I turn the TV on in the morning now, for anything other than news or a very special event, then I am quite uncomfortable, almost looking guiltily over my shoulder.
In the good old days, parents would say to their children – “You spend too much time in front of the television, get outside and get some fresh air before you go mouldy and your brain turns to mush!” I was fortunate; I lived in a small Court (dead-end street) and we walked to school, played footy on the road, spent hours in piles of dirt my parents had delivered for the garden, rode bikes and skateboards. When it was wet, we were inside with an array of action figures, all trying to tear each other limb from limb in a thousand horrific ways. GI Joe spent a lot of time with his head in a crocodile’s mouth. Then I moved on to a farm and outside adventures took on a whole new scale and meaning.
Now, as an adult and a parent, I find myself caught between bemoaning the internet and looking upon the TV like an old family friend and then vice versa. The raging debate has shifted. There is a new question mark over our free time (that is, when there is time between phone calls, tweets, likes and shares).
Is Social Media the ultimate Anti-Social activity?
I just read a really great article – Look Up – Smart Phones, Dumb People – by Mark Ellis a blogging friend in London. Mark references a current video that’s roving about the net called Look Up, that suggests its time to look up from your phone and connect in the old-fashioned way. Mark then goes on to talk about his family and what they are doing to counter the impact of being sucked headfirst into the universe of social media – never to return. Ironically, this video will find its biggest audience on social media, the very media it is critiquing. In fact the video suggests that ‘social’ media is in fact quite the opposite and it promotes largely antisocial or at the least, superficial social behaviour. You know what, in many ways I agree. Addictive mobile devices are taking over the world like a plague. Look up is a great 4 minute video worth a view and gives quite a wakeup call.
However, there is no debate if there are no alternate arguments, so I thought I would add just a couple of arguments for social media, and I think they are pretty strong, what do you think?
TV versus Social Media
My wife maintains a strict rule in our house and that is that we eat the evening meal at the table, regardless of whoever is home. We turn off the television and other forms of technology and we sit together being social. We have a real live, flesh and blood social interaction nearly every night. Since I write a blog, away from meal time I like to spend time at the computer looking at other blogs, articles, checking statistics and experiencing the highs and lows of publishing. But I can’t concentrate on the reading and commenting on posts with a TV in the background since I am helplessly sucked quickly into the most mind numbing programme or even commercial. So I sit in a separate room, by myself – staring at a screen. Is there really any difference?
Is there anything a little ironic in the new parental cry of, “Turn that thing off and give yourself a break for a while, Come and watch some TV with mum and me”, and then the whole family sitting on the couch watching reality TV together? The TV commercials provide a break I guess – a chance to catch up on Facebook or Instagram. As a parent, if you’re lucky, in the TV room, you may get a text from the bedroom saying “OMW” (on my way) .
Like most parents I get frustrated when my kids sit and stare at their laptops endlessly, dismissing me with a “just a minute”, or a “hang on, this is nearly over”. But is this really any different to the last generation who frustrated their parents by sitting pie-eyed in front of the television watching a road runner and a coyote blow each other up or drop each other of a cliff every 5 minutes?
Staying in touch and rekindling
One of the real positives I have noticed with this generation and their social media is how connected they are to friends and family that they may otherwise have drifted away from. The great thing about some of these platforms is it allows you to keep an appropriate and a desirable level of contact as well. It really is an as much or little as you want scenario. I think it’s great to be able to connect with old friends and see who they grew into, that they are happy, whether they have children, what they’ve done. On Facebook, as an example, you are much more likely to make that connection than you would if it required a get together, or even a phone call. Particularly men who are naturally less apt to make this social effort.
The virtual family outing
On Social media, you can watch the most interesting members of your family (the 0 to 10’s) growing up wherever they are located. In a country the size of Australia, or in a world where people move to live in new countries more often than ever, one of the perils of distance is the potential family and friend disconnects. Imagine a world where a grandparent, or even a great grandparent can share in a child’s first words, footsteps, day of school, a bedtime story, a school concert while sitting 1, 2 or 3,000 miles away within moments or even as it happens. Imagine no longer, we’re there.
The font of all knowledge
With a few years under its belt, the Internet now offers a mostly credible source of information.
Try sitting round with a group of colleagues, using a word we all know, but wondering its origins and real meaning. Moments later someone with a fascination in linguistics says, “Did you know?” It may defy belief for many, but it actually was interesting. Or instead of being a loner in the corner with an unusual interest, all of a sudden you’re part of a community. And some one says, “I remember when”, and moments later you review it on google. Not to mention:
- did my team win on the weekend,
- is she home from holidays,
- is there a paper on that; and
- what can I do when I arrive in Brazil?
It goes on and on. The internet is an amazing source of information that actually has the potential to significantly increase and satisfy our collective thirst for knowledge.
All good things in moderation
Restraint is incredibly important. Living in the moment is incredibly important. Making a real live fresh air connection to another human being is a far superior method of communication to any social media. But just check in with yourself and ask: How many social, vocational, hobby connections that I have, would I have made if I had not had social media as the vehicle?
Is this really just another generational issue? Should we stop the social media and get everyone around the TV? Did we stop the TV and get everyone around the fireplace and piano? Did they stop the piano and get everyone outside with the dog, a bike and a stick?
Would be great to get your thoughts. Social Media, Good – Bad? What do you say?