That phrase just about sums up where social media appears to have got to today. On the one hand it is the most interesting and varied form of communication ever experienced on this planet. On the other, full of ‘false news’ and rumours that spread like a bad smell.
And the third hand? Well, I know that we don’t have one but at times it feels like you need one to fend off the trolls and the generally unpleasant beings that populate internet chatrooms.
How did we get to the point where the internet and social media is considered to be the demon in all our lives? It was meant to be our saviour.
Having lived a good chunk of my time before the internet was ubiquitous, the sudden ability to do research and immediately correspond across the world seemed miraculous – but did it all happen too fast? Did we have time to stop and think before running headlong to embrace it?
Statistics have been flying around over the past week about loneliness in all ages but the one that struck me most was that the highest percentage recorded as lonely were those in the 16 – 24 year old bracket. What has gone wrong? People of this age are the ones that should be out all the time meeting friends, enjoying life at university and socialising in their first jobs.
In my day I was in continual trouble from my parents for spending hours on the phone talking to my friends – but there is the rub. I was talking on a phone and it would appear that people just don’t do that anymore. Communication is all through the fingers and not the voice. In fact, some people would prefer a phone that has no voice plan but a bigger data one.
No wonder they are lonely. Without hearing what someone is saying, the tone of their voice and spontaneous use of words, it can be difficult to make a real connection. The ability to have a giggling session just can’t happen on Snapchat – no matter how many emojis you use. It may end up that the longest conversation that they have one day is with Alexa!
There are so many surveys being undertaken, think tanks thinking and governments pontificating about the public’s, and particularly young people’s, reliance on their phones and social media that it is becoming an industry in itself, mostly full of hot air and no action.
Where do we go from here? What action can be taken? Is it too late to take a step back and re-programme people’s use of phones and the internet? Yes, probably. Pandora’s Box has been opened and it will be difficult to close.
What I do know is that if we don’t use it we will lose it. It is down to every one of us to get up off our proverbials and communicate by voice with others, young and old, at home and in the workplace, and face to face or by phone – the medium it was originally invented for – or we may all start to feel lonely.