Email me your LinkedIn – I’ll send you a tweet, then see you on Facebook, yeah?

Posted on March 2, 2012

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Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Myspace, Friends Reunited, Tumblr, Skype – modern society is infinitely connected. Isn’t it fantastic? You’re never more than a swish of your iphone from the rest of the world. On the down side…you’re never more than a swish of your iphone from the rest of the world.

I used to feel an overwhelming desire to sling my laptop in the canal and migrate to a dank, darkened cave if bombarded by too many emails/skypes/IM’s at once. It seemed like the magnificent evolution of our digitally connected world was just a thinly veiled excuse for people to harass me, then to get pissed off when I tried to ignore their uninvited online advances. If I’ve made that sound vaguely erotic, I’m overselling it.

But lately I’m coming round to the idea of technology as a means for good rather than a force for unspeakable evil. There’s a metamorphosis afoot, although I won’t emerge from the chrysalis a beautiful butterfly, more a tech-gobbling maniac. Over the last few months I’ve started an online blog, joined Twitter and may even trade in my bounce-when-you-drop-it Nokia for a Smartphone. I’ve created a monster.

The modern culture of online sharing – or the endless sea of links to videos of transsexual dogs and articles slagging off David Cameron – has really taken off over the last couple of years. While this has opened us up to a glut of easy-access information and learning opportunities, there are drawbacks, such as spending far less time interacting with reality, losing the ability to vocalise an opinion in the absence of a ‘like’ button, and forgetting what trees look like. The average person in the UK apparently spends 12 hours a day sitting down, as well as 12 hours staring at a screen. We may be maturing into more learned, civilised and informed members of society, but we’re going to get tubby as Pavarotti doing it.

It’s this heavy toll on our general health and wellbeing as human beings, which seems to come with the rampant escalation of digitalisation, that’s made me reluctant to embrace it thus far. But as with most things in life, surely it’s just down to getting the balance right. Can you offset an hour spent deep-frying your eyeballs in front of the internet, with an hour frolicking in the park and communing with nature?

Feel like you’re spending too much time with your computer?

Of all the communication channels to have sprung up this last decade, due credit must go to Skype. Had I been asked back in 2000 if, in a matter of years, we’d be able to chat face-to-face on our computers, from opposite ends of the earth, for free, I’d probably have given better odds for Slough’s potential as a popular holiday destination. It’s pretty amazing. Although it too has some downsides – like chatting to my brother while he hangs out on a glistening Thai beach, as I gaze out my East London window at a lamppost.

The new Facebook Timeline allegedly offers up a great new platform to ‘tell your life story’. Well, that’s just a little creepy and reminiscent of Justin Trousersnake’s sinister proclamation that ‘we’re all going to live on the internet!’ in Facebook film The Social Network. They know the internet isn’t actually a real place, right?

Privacy? That’s just so 2004. We’re living in the paparazzi era, where you don’t have to be a film star to get your photo splashed across the internet. Hello! magazine wannabies can live the pseudo-celebrity dream through Facebook photo tagging and hourly Twitter updates – whether we want to hear about what they had for breakfast, or not. And when photos, status updates, tweets etc get personal, it all gets a bit weird. Not to mention dangerous – as it was for the British woman who famously slagged off her boss on Facebook, forgetting that she’d added him as a friend. Unsurprisingly her P45 was in the post pretty rapidly, after he publicly sacked her online.

The latest contender to enter the social networking ring is Pinterest. Winner of the 2011 Crunchie award for Best New Startup, the image-sharing site has taken the online world by storm this last month. It functions by allowing you to ‘pin’ images from anywhere on the web to a virtual personal pinboard, which other users can ‘like’, comment on, or ‘re-pin’ to their own boards. It seems to essentially comprise a space for looking at lots of beautiful things, and I’m told is freakishly addictive. Enter at your own peril.

So it’s with a pinch of trepidation that I enter the digital media storm. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with sharing a few photos here and there, signposting interesting articles, being able to follow the activity of people and organisations that inspire you and just generally being more connected with the world. Just as long as your online life doesn’t take over your life outside laptops, ipads and Smartphones.

Go outside people, it’s nice, I promise! There are TREES and everything.

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Posted in: Society