Two things have happened this week that upset me. The first was when I read in the News of the World how a normal mum gave up on being a mum in favour of obsessive web-based paedophilia. the second was discovering that I couldn’t watch England play Ukraine in the pub because you can’t (yet) stream video into a television.
While you can’t compare the hideous crime of paedophilia with the loss of an hour or two’s footy, both experiences are linked by a commonly expressed concern about the disconnection caused by new media.
Cycling in the rain this morning, I weaved through pedestrians on their phones oblivious to the risks of walking through traffic without the use of ears, mouth (and brain). Another example of new media disconnecting people from others in favour of exclusive media interractions.
We are surfing the tsunami of social media; but fun as it is on the wave, we shouldn’t ignore its destructive capacity. You can’t regulate a tidal wave but you can build early warning systems. This is what we should be doing now.
The risks of obsessive and destructive behaviours on Facebook stem from people replacing normal behaviours (in this mum’s case, doing mumsy things) with a parallel on-line world where the normal rules of society do not apply. Watching football on a laptop is a milder version of the same problem. Walking through London traffic with eyes on a text is media as “self harm”.
As I finish this blog, I’m thinking of the interractions that I could have had over the past thirty minutes. There is an opportunity cost to everything and we need to think carefully about how social some of this new media really is!