THE BLOG

Social Media is Destroying our Ability to be Social

04/06/2013 11:36 BST | Updated 02/08/2013 10:12 BST
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The world has changed, didn't you get the memo? We have become digitised, and we live in a world now defined by IP address statistics and pictures of what you had for breakfast. Social media in its current form has changed the way we live our lives, and perhaps we are so far down the rabbit hole it is too late to turn back. Speaking from my own experience, I find it difficult to read a book now without having the phone close by, just in case of an e-mail or a Facebook update. I find myself scrolling Twitter every ten minutes and every once in a while I will check Instagram to see what my friends are eating or what manner of 'selfies' they are inflicting on their digital followers.

Of course, it's not all bad. Social Media is a marketers dream come true, never before have businesses had so much information on potential consumers, provided free and willingly. As I mentioned previously, it is this feeling of connectivity that ensures we keep signing in daily and is especially useful when a friend or family member moves abroad. Still, as I take my first sip of coffee of the day and open the laptop I can't shake the feeling that we are willingly stepping into a dystopian nightmare - where 'likes' mean more than handshakes and downloading a song from Itunes is favoured over going to the gig. Social media is destroying our ability to be social animals, or perhaps re-defining the term social altogether. However, there is always the chance that my inability to put the phone down is not representative of the general public and more a (rather worrying) reflection of myself.

Putting aside the melodramatic views for a second, I will say that I think social media, and as an extension the Internet in general, has been good for news. While it has no doubt been bad for newsrooms and traditional print media - almost depressingly so - for news coverage it is now unbeatable. As long as the source is reputable, the concept of rolling news has been changed forever. The shift is never more evident than in the aftermath of a significant event - be it a presidential election, the overthrowing of a dictator, a terrorist attack or a natural disaster - Twitter is live and immediate. More often than not, traditional print publications are left playing catch up to yesterdays news and this has only given ammunition to those that proclaim print to be dead. It is these events however, that help to highlight one of the main problems of social media.

Everyone has a voice and an opinion and now the tools to express them to the world. One example has been showcased recently after the Boston bombings, with internet detectives scouring photos and videos of the tragic events for clues and eventually pointing their digital fingers at two innocent men. I am somewhat conflicted on this issue, on one hand it is surely a commendable act to try and help, but it also showcases social media's ability to be downright dangerous in situations when the immediacy of Twitter or Reddit conflicts with the need for restraint or pause.

Before it all gets too Orwellian, I should note that I believe it is a good thing people have a voice and an open want to express opinion. This is a freedom that should be cherished, and as I type I feel a slight hypocrisy in myself knowing that no matter how much I complain, there is no one forcing me to sign on each day. I only write to express a degree of internal contempt for change, coming from someone that still listens to vinyl and has an open interest in reading I find it irritating that I am so easily distracted by the temptations of the online world. Checking the weather instead of looking out the window, reading about local events without actually attending or maybe checking the emails before the letterbox. But perhaps I have changed alongside the world, for good or ill, an unknowing participant in the evolution of our culture.

You can follow me on Twitter at @Jason_A_Murdock