I may look like I’m social-media savvy because I blog and I have Facebook and Twitter accounts, but I was very late to all this technology really, and needed a lot of persuasion to embrace all these new communication methods. My oldest son set up my Facebook page for me – which I hadn’t asked for – and then he Friended me and Poked me a few times and I was hooked. I was late to the mobile phone too, and still only use it to send texts, so I’m completely out of the loop socially unless I’m sitting in front of my lap-top, and already I can feel my resistance to smart phones dissolving.
I no longer feel proud of my Luddite tendencies as I used to, I have been dragged kicking and screaming into this brave new world and I now recognise it’s pretty sensible to try to master it and make friends with it. It is after all the present and the future reality and who wants to be left behind like a Billy-no-mates?
Especially our kids. For them, with their intuitive grasp of the technology, these new communication platforms are a seamless part of their social world. Texting and facebooking is not an alternative to real human relationships – as we adults suspect, having had a lifetime of only the former – it is just another aspect which they use in conjunction with the physical world stuff. Our children are lucky that they have another means of what is still essentially communication with other human beings, and I look forward to seeing what they will do with it.
Maybe they will refine the written word and bring it more in line with the subtleties of the spoken – in the absence of body language clues, everyone will have to get better at using just words (and a few emoticons). I look forward to new communication skills evolving.
More importantly, they will find ways of dealing with online bullies. In real life, bullying flourishes in silence and can be very subtle, but online it is all written down for the world to see. We can’t be innocent bystanders and pretend we don’t know what’s going on so it will become a collective responsibility and how it’s dealt with online will probably have an impact on real-life bullying too.
When you think about social media in terms of human evolution, it almost feels like a very human response to the modern problem of isolation in our living circumstances. We are far more separated from community living now than we have ever been, a result of huge advances in transport, communications and simple opportunity. So being the social creatures that we are, we have evolved the means to bridge the gaps. When we worry about our children spending too long texting and using facebook, maybe we should just see this as the modern equivalent of the need for social intercourse which – for teenagers especially – used to happen only by hanging around on street corners together, or commandeering the children’s swings at the park.
There is a real concern about younger children and exercise, but in the case of teenagers they never used to get much anyway. Even when hanging out physically with friends, mine seem to use the least possible physical exertion that is humanly possible.
Personally I embrace the advantages of new communication channels with my kids. I just spent a week away from them looking after my mum, and I was thrilled to get a text from my daughter saying ‘I miss you sooooo much’. I know in the olden days she may have called to say that, but it’s kind of nice to see it written down….