That was the title of my Masters thesis. Admittedly it failed due to my general demeanour of ‘it’ll do’ rather than ‘this is the best thing I have ever written and I shall go over it twice more just to make sure’. Oops. However the theory is still something I truly believe in and one day when I have the time, money and inclination, I shall finish it. Having written my degree dissertation about Harry Potter I am not averse to somewhat unconventional or even controversial topics of exploration.
The idea behind it was that we’re gradually becoming an online society and though in some ways that is good because it means that distances are no object and the six degrees of separation suddenly become 6-clicks of difference, it is also destroying society as we have come to know it and rebuilding it into something I’m not sure I altogether like…
Letters used to the way to communicate to speak to people great distances away and these, closed with a personal seal indicative of each person, could take days or even weeks to reach their destination in some cases. The art of letter writing was truly that; an art form. The use of grammar and punctuation to express oneself succinctly but also eloquently, and the flowing style that could depict wit, emotion and personality coming through the letters on the page was a talent and a skill. There were jobs available as scribes to write other people’s letters and pass on other people’s news and information in the best hand possible as well as readers the other end to bring the words to life to those unable to do so for themselves. Letters were the way the world was connected and in a world as large as that, something thought as simple as letters held it together in a delicate balance.
Now text has taken grammar and spelling and thrown them out into the cold along with a good portion of the English language itself! Instantaneous messaging means there is no need to wait for a response that may not make it, the worst we experience is ‘network failure’. MySpace took the control of managed advertising and gave it to the audience, allowing self publicising and self marketing to take off in the media world. Facebook and Twitter have allowed people the opportunity to connect with others that would not have been possible in the last 30 years, let alone the last 100. But at what cost does this down scaling of the world come at? What do we lose when we log on instead of reaching out for a connection?
Technology is amazing and at no point will I ever disagree with that or condemn the fantastic advances made in both science and technology, but I do feel strongly that progress for progress’ sake should not only be carefully considered but also the paths we carve should take into the account the route they have followed to reach that point before destroying all vestige of previous gain. In other words, whatever awesome and unbelievable leaps forward we may take in terms of connecting, conversing and contributing, it should never be forgotten how we arrived at that point in the first place.
Yes, the wonder that is instant messaging saves on weeks of delays and horseshoes but it doesn’t allow the ‘author’ the time to consider their words and once sent into the ether, there can be no clawing them back.
Yes, the amazing world of MySpace allows for free expression and branding and reselling of yourself but before that was available there was only you. And you and only one opportunity to make that first impression. And it made people work harder and be better, not just look better for a photo to epitomise their ‘genre’.
Yes, social networking sites are unbelievable and negate the distance between lands, cultures and people to allow connections that should never have been possible and connect people in ways that could not be conceived before. But id there a reason for that..?
I may sound old but I hear kids on the bus shout things like “I’ll text you later or I’ll just tweet it” as they’re getting off the bus to head into their house, probably to go into their rooms, log onto their computers and start ‘really’ interacting with society. They may have the opportunity to speak to people they could not dream of before thanks to social networks but is it really an interaction or it is just words on a page?
There is less and less face to face contact between people and less and less need to hear what people have to say when you can discover the person behind the words at their sites and through their posts. People have now taken to promoting an ‘image’ of themselves before they’ve even met new people to save them getting the wrong impression from the start!
The ides of ‘society’ is that of the collective. The people together create the ups and downs, the classes and structures and the ways of living but the influx of ‘social’ technology in some ways seems to having the very opposite effect by breaking down the social interactions and negating the need for real conversation. The society this is promoting is not an evolution to my eyes but something very different and in parts, something very dark and unknown.
Sometimes I look at how far society has moved forward and wonder just exactly where it’s gone. It’s like it’s taken the trip down the rabbit hole but somehow, got turned around at one of the junctions and we’re still waiting for it to emerge the other-side. I’m hoping it will one day, but whether it will be recognisable is still to be seen.