I spent my late teenage years living in an English hamlet. This basically means that it was a 2 mile (over 3km) walk to the nearest pub, which housed the obligatory set of characters that adorn any rural British drinking-establishment. Everyone knew everyone, and everyone’s business, and this arrangement has been the cornerstone of British rurality for hundreds of years. Now, whenever you open your Facebook app it is like being in a little village. All the characters are exactly the same - scroll down your feed for long enough and you’ll see:
- the drunk,
- the one with questionable morals,
- the argumentative one,
- the over-divulger,
- the landlord whose job it is to keep the aforementioned in check (in this analogy, Facebook itself).
While not every country has this setup, not every country wants it either. Not everyone wants to visit the pub and not everyone wants to visit Facebook. Some people want an alternative.
Twitter, as you probably know, has rolled out a global in-tweet ‘buy’ button. This was met with the standard ‘how dare they sell my data to companies so they can target me with products based upon my browsing history’! In my opinion, go for it. Take all of my data and please target me with stuff I might actually want. I would rather have a tweet pop-up with a ‘buy’ button for some Billabong flip flops than some shot-in-the-dark generic advertising where I have the opportunity to buy from the Marks and Spencer Winter Collection. I live in Singapore, a fleece-lined jacket with matching gloves just makes me feel uncomfortable thinking about it.
It defies the point of advancement if you panic whenever technology tries to make things easier. Imagine if your local supermarket put a new back door in so you can go straight in from the car park to the aisle you want, without having to circumvent the building and walk through the chilled aisles, and you were like; ‘nope! Don’t trust it’! I want to walk all the way around, browse loads of stuff I don’t care about, forget why I was there and go home without buying what I actually wanted. You don’t get what you want and it is a waste of time.
Social media - whether it be any of the new kids on the block such as Ello or Yik Yak, or the old timers of Facebook, Twitter or Instagram - can help us in so many ways if we just drop the fear-of-change mentality. I’m not saying it doesn’t have its drawbacks but fundamentally anything that makes your life easier has to be good right? Most importantly though, being connected can save a lot of unnecessary hassle.
In 1945, my granddad returned home after fighting in World War 2 - with a lot more wrinkles and a lot less hair. He then had to leave for a 12-month period and travelled by boat from London to northern Italy, where he then travelled by car to Rome. Upon arriving in Rome he reported for duty, but there was an issue. He was never meant to go to Italy but they never got the message to him in time before he left.
For those of you who may have your doubts. If social media had been a thing in 1945, he would have been sat in the departure lounge scrolling through his smartphone and someone would have whatsapped or tweeted him saying not to go. This would have saved spending a week on a boat, driving for three days, and then spending a year sharing a bedroom with 20 strangers. So, next time you read a tedious tweet or targeted advert, consider the alternative and then carry on doing whatever it is you do that makes you happy.