With it being mid-way through the Easter vacation and in a bid to concentrate on anything but my dissertation, I tuned into Alan Titchmarsh’s creatively titled new show, The Alan Titchmarsh Show on ITV this afternoon. One of his discussions centred on Social Media and the idea that through its continued implementation and use in our society, human contact and ‘real’ relationships will diminish. To join his discussion, he called upon Janet Street-Porter, Gloria Hunniford and a Technology journalist, whose name I can’t remember at the moment…
Titchmarsh – and the whole panel – are obviously from an older generation with an average age of around 50. He immediately seemed against social media, throwing his ignorant view around when I’m not sure he had justification to. He sarcastically began by shaking the technology journalist’s hand, as if this man – who enjoyed and understood the relevance and usefulness of technology and social media – was now so far into cyber space that he’d forgotten how to shake a man’s hand. Hunniford seemed to dismiss social media as a time-wasting tool for this ominous ‘youth of today’, whom represent… well, I don’t really know who this stereotypical ‘youth’ represent. She said that she had no time for social media and technology and similarly, Street-Porter said that she doesn’t know where people fit in hours and hours of virtual social interaction.
I understand that the adverse views presented by Titchmarch, Hunniford and Street-Porter are generational; my mother agrees that virtual interaction is alien to her and she doesn’t fathom my high regard for social networking. I also understand that Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and blogging are premiere tools for procrastination and I agree that we, as a young society, do waste time on these sites (especially around essay hand-in time).
But as well as enabling us to keep up with everyone else’s virtual lives, these versions of social interaction are integral to our modern society. I have only recently been persuaded, but tweeting, commenting, blogging and connecting should all be valued, significantly. As a graduate looking to work within the media, there are job roles dedicated to being responsible for the Social Media of companies. Most television shows encourage us to ‘join the discussion’ by @ing and #ing throughout programmes and GuardianJobs has even go so far as to execute a #twitterjobchallenge which sees job-seekers using Twitter to discover and secure new jobs.
The point that social media and networking will steer society away from ‘real’ interaction is understandable. Titchmarsh’s argument agreed with Scientists, who have said that we will no longer have regard for human emotion because our computer screens enable us to hide behind a virtual and artificial persona. But is this just another excuse? Television apparently stopped families from talking to eachother in the same way that email stopped people from making phone calls and the telephone stopped people from writing letters.
Social media isn’t just another instrument to avoid the real world, but should be seen and used as apparatus to get us all back into the real world. It allows us to stay up to date with news, laws, employment, politics and influential people. It allows us to comment on news, laws, employment, politics and influential people. It allows us to question news, laws, employment, politics and influential people… Like anything, if used correctly, this social media overhaul has the potential to be effective in every part of our ‘real world’ and embracing and understanding it would do us all a lot better than to dismiss.