Monday, 8 December 2014

Social media is dead!

#CameronMustGo - A hashtag that has been trending on twitter for ages, as part of an imaginative social media campaign co-ordinated by the Labour Party? Actually no, I believe it is the obituary of Twitter as a platform for social change. Whilst it may be fun for political anoraks and obsessives, what normal sane person would be influenced in any way, shape or form by a 140 character message of which 14 are a slogan, presumably thought up by a "media consultant" trying to help the Labour Party get with it. I've never been overly convinced of the power and influence of Twitter in the UK. Initially I couldn't be bothered with it at all. It was suggested to me that maybe it would help me let readers of this blog know that a new blog had been posted, so I succumbed. It didn't take too long to realise what a horrible place the TwitSphere was. A zone where cowardly Trolls roam, looking for ways to anonymously put the boot in to people they'd run a mile from in real life. As to the quality of political debate, it is dire. What tends to happen is you get a right wing nutcase and a left wing nutcase shouting at each other, not listening, until the less robust party triumphantly announces "I've blocked so and so and life is much better now!"

These Trolls sit there waiting for some poor unsuspecting mug to post something, usually about an issue they feel passionately about, and then leap. They use all manner of hectoring, fatuous arguments to support the unsupportable. When a perfectly reasonable retort is posted, it is simply ignored or the subject changed. Engageing with a Troll is time consuming and ultimately a complete waste of time. However annoying they may be, however tempting it may appear to try and reason with them, ultimately you'll never get those minutes of your life back. I doubt there will be anyone who says on their deathbed "I wish I'd spent more time arguing with Trolls on Twitter".

The net effect of the Trolls and their activities has been to transform Twitter into a forum where all we do is preach to converted. What twitter does well is to keep us informed when there is a disaster or a crisis. The 140 character format and the ability to post photo's is ideal for us to instantly know what has occurred. These days you tend to find out breaking news first from Twitter because a subject starts trending. Sadly even here the Trolls roam, often posting messages stating some minor celeb has died. This is met with swift denials.

As I look at Twitter, I ask "what is trending in London" right now. Here's the answer
If this really is a summary of the most exciting things to discuss in London right now, then Lord help us all. In short, Twitter has simply degenerated into a noticeboard to discuss last nights telly and for Trolls to kick lumps out of each other. Is that really worth the trouble.

Then we have Facebook. It is nice to keep up with friends on Facebook, but whilst the instant messaging feature is useful, it has got more and more irritating, clogged up with adverts, sponsored posts, stupid games and reposts of jokes billed as "hilarious" which are mindnumbingly dull and amazing which are banal. In truth, just about the only videos I've looked at recently are ones of dogs doing stupid things, which mostly do what they say on the tin. If all Facebook is really about is recirculating funny dog videos, I'd suggest that it's days are numbered.

What about Youtube? As part of the Barnet Eye Advent calendar, I've spent the week trawling for interesting videos about our neighbourhood. Whilst there are some gems there, the amount of totally Banal crap you have to search through to find anything is truly depressing. As a little test, I searched for the most viewed video with the words "Mill Hill" in.

It is a video of how to drive around Apex Corner roundabout. Now clearly many people will want to know how to learn to drive, but is this really the most exciting thing to ever come out of Mill Hill? I think of all the forms of social Media, YouTube will be the most enduring, but it does seem to me that it's lost its glitter. I suspect that as it fills up with Birthdays and Bahmitzvah's itw ill be ever less seen as a serious place for social interaction and more simply viewed as a useful resource.

In some ways it is inevitable that internet fads come and go. Whatever happened to "friends reunited" and Myspace? Both were leading edge and both are now viewed rather like we view the dinosaurs.

I suppose in many ways Social media platforms are like religious cults. Initially they have explosive growth as the zealots who start them get the message out with zeal and fervour. People get swept up and congregations grow. Then all of a sudden, they find they are just part of the establishment and part of the furniture and the next generation of zealots find it all rather old hat and the cycle starts again.

I do wonder when people will realise that the best way to keep in touch is to actually go and see your friends and family. As to the discussions we have with people we don't like, haven't we had enough of them already at School, work and with the pub bore?

The only question I really have is to ask what will replace the current rash of social illness we call social media companies.

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