Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Anti-Social Networking

I apologise now - this is a sad blog. And a bit all over the place when I re read it.

Its something thats been on my mind for sometime, and I have read a number of articles recently about how social networking is actually a paradox for the word "Social". 

Without doubt social networking has obviously enabled the world to keep in touch with each other easier and more often. But the question for me, does this actually make us more social or make life easier and better.

I watched a film recently that had quite a profound effect on me. It was called Dreams Of A Life by a great director called Carol Morley. It is a documentary about Joyce Vincent, the lady who at the young age of 38, was found dead in a flat above a shop in Wood Green in 2006. She had been there undiscovered for 3 years. The TV was still on, and some wrapped christmas presents were by her side. The cause of death was unknown. She had a network of friends and family in London but had sort of "disappeared" of their scene.

During my late teens and early 20's I hung around that area of North London and that sort of made it closer to home. I am still in touch with most of those friends but it made me realise and think where the others were.

2006 was a bit too early for Facebook, but social networking had sort of started back in 2000 so even though this pre dates the current trends, I still think it has something to say about us and our society.

I thought long and hard how we used to keep in touch with mates. The period of teen/college/clubbing for me was the 80's. For a few years I had a large circle of friends, and we used to go out 4-5 times a week at different pubs, clubs and weekend parties all around North London. Nearly everyone was still living with parents so arrangements were just made through a chain of land line phone calls. If no-one heard from someone in the group for a few weeks, phone calls were made to them first, then messages left with parents and eventually just popping round their houses. And even other groups of friends - Sunday nights were regularly making a catch phone call with an old college or work mate who you hadn't spoken to for 6 months or so.

The point is you had to make an effort, and you generally did as a result.

Fast forward to today. The advent of email and so many social networks, the majority of which I love and use constantly, makes this old communication almost redundant. But at what cost.

If you expect to see someone regularly updating their Facebook status or tweeting, do you notice if they stop. And then if they have, do you make an effort to get in contact to see if they are ok. Probably not. We have become used to people announcing what they are doing rather than making the effort to communicate with them.

The Joyce Vincent story is not really an effect of this but a symptom of what could be happening. It is and will always be one of the saddest stories I've ever heard.

And just to make this post even sadder, whilst I was writing this it made me think of another Facebook story that I have had very recently which is sort of relevant.

Back in November, when Facebook were changing over a lot of their data to the new timeline, I appeared to lose loads of data in a closed group I had created. I was angry - tweeted like mad and announced on Facebook I'd had enough and was leaving.

I did not log into Facebook for 4 months. 

In February I finally registered on LinkedIn for the first time. That evening I was contacted by an old school friend who at the end of the email asked me if I knew about another school of ours called Sean. Unbelievably Sean had died suddenly in the new year.

Sean was a fantastic guy. He had really looked after me at school. However I hadn't seen him  since school days. However we regularly chatted on Facebook - we both supported Spurs and as we still lived 4 miles apart still, we always talked about getting together to watch a game. We never did. 

His death was a shock to everyone - he had been on Facebook the night before and his account was full of condolences. However, because I hadn't logged in I had missed his sad death and his funeral. In fact I phoned 2 other friends who knew him and were not on Facebook and both did not know either.

Since then I have gone back to using Facebook regularly - not just for this reason but it made me realise how it had become part of our lives in more ways than I had ever imagined.

Rest in Peace Sean - COYS.


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