Skip to content

The Anti-Social Media

Does
Stephen Hawking indulge an occasional Twitter?

What
about, say, Jonathan Miller; or Alan Bennett, Richard Dawkins and Melvyn Bragg?  Does the Chancellor of Oxford University
succumb to the odd tweet?  Does the
editor of The New Statesman?    

I’m
asking because these gentlemen are by reputation founts of informed opinion,
from which spring views and speculations that they and their peers occasionally
deign to share with the rest of us.  One
may find many of such musings sufficiently lofty as to be incomprehensible, but
at least a few might qualify as enlightening or challenging.   

One
might even find them liberating, to purloin the word most often used by enthusiastic
advocates of electronic publishing media.   
 

Now,
I’ve no idea whether Hawking and company, or any of their peers from that class
we call the intelligentsia actively participate in the currently popular
vehicles of social media, thereby contributing to our long-awaited liberation,
but somehow I doubt it.  The truth is
that such channels, for all the innovative brilliance of the technology of
communications that empowers them, far from liberating are nothing more than literary
sink estates populated by a mindless untermensch devoted to nothing more inspiring
than gossip and contrived controversy. 

The
only people who, as far as I can tell, tweet as some kind of daily laxative are
overwhelmingly those who have nothing remotely interesting to say, or who
belong to the growing army of marginal celebrities who find the medium a
godsend as a convenient conduit into the newspapers that peddle their nonsense
as news – and much cheaper than hiring a publicist 

The
same may be said, and more, of Facebook. 
Sadly, dozens of people I know – including, I regret to admit, many whom
I otherwise like and respect – apparently feel some strange compulsion to
update Facebook, if not daily then with an obsessive regularity, imparting to
the world not the diverse richness of their lives but the remorseless trivia of
an apparently bleak existence.   

As
James Delingpole recently wrote in the Spectator, Twitter is a publishing
medium more dangerous than any that has ever before existed.  The problem is that it is at once trivially
ephemeral and hideously permanent. 
Whatever your state of mind, whether you’re drunk or sober, depressed or
euphoric, it’s there waiting to capture your every thought from the moment you
wake up to the moment you check your Twitter feed one last time before you go
to sleep”.

This
has been discovered by more than a few job applicants, who have been shocked to
learn that their interviewers seem to be more interested in what they’ve been
up to on their social media sites than from the curriculum vitae they worked on
for countless hours.  Employees have been
fired for ‘inappropriate’ Twitter messages. 
Some celebrities, notably the wife of the Speaker of the House of
Commons, Sally Bercow, have found themselves on the receiving end of libel
suits.  Perhaps she thought that libel
couldn’t be applied to Twitter.   

But
such inherent dangers are not what concern me. 
If people want to court disaster by idly punching in 140 characters of
rot that could end their careers or denude their bank account, more fool them. 

What
worries me more is that intelligent discourse is being reduced to exchanges of
word-bites written in an excruciatingly truncated form of English stripped of
all meaning or subtlety.  It’s part of
the nightmare addressed by the Education Minister Michael Gove, who wants
children to be taught to read, write and do sums as a necessary preparation for
some higher intellectual absorption.

Yes,
I know I’m not saying anything new here, merely exercising for the umpteenth
time a prejudice of long standing, but the point bears repetition.

Before
we’re all reduced to zombies.

 

Be First to Comment

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published.

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.