Wednesday, 6 October 2021

Thinking about social media pros and cons.

Social media are getting some bad press. They put profit before people, says the Facebook whistleblower. But, isn’t that the nature of capitalism. Even back in the days when certain companies did a very good job of providing housing and schools for their employees, they were still in it for the money when it came to hey-lads-hey!

I joined Facebook to have an easy way for my daughter to send us photos when we went off to live in Spain for a while. A few years before that a friend of mine had joined Facebook when her daughter went off to do the obligatory year in a French speaking country as part of her Modern languages degree … in Guadeloupe. This is a while ago now and she knew her daughter couldn’t afford phone calls and was not a great letter writer. However, she was a regular poster of photos on Facebook and by joining Facebook and becoming her “friend” her mother could keep up with what she was doing. More importantly, she could check that she was safe and well. 

Both of us found that once we joined we were “discovered” by all sorts of old friends and former students, who all got in touch with us. 

During lockdown, lots of people found Whatsapp groups really helpful and supportive. It’s not all bad. And no doubt Mr Zuckerberg is busy telling us all that.

It’s all progressed (if that’s the right word!) since my friend and I joined Facebook. Yes, the unrequested adverts that pop up are annoying. And yes, there are lots of negatives. And yes, some of those negatives are dangerous. But like Pandora’s box being opened, social media are there and we have to learn to live with them. I don’t think the lid will go back on. 

Personally I enjoy seeing the photos friends post, even if they’re pictures of their local “keep my village beautiful” group hard at work, pictures of the latest protest that my friend has been on - usually very confused photos of crowds of people because she’s too short to get a good shot - or pictures of what they had for dinner. Most of them are really good pictures of interesting places and things. It’s an easy way to keep in touch.

I do wince though when yet another friend joins in those “games” that ask if you remember the name of your primary school, your first car, your mother’s maiden name - all the things that the bank uses for those secret identity check questions. Here’s an article all about how scammers use our secret info! 

My defence of social media does not stop me being annoyed by the fact that once a supplier of some goods you ordered online has your email address you get bombarded with advertising emails. My latest from Marks and Spencer, with lots of pictures of Christmas trees and baubles, invites me to:

“Prep for Christmas... it's never too early!”

My response: YES, IT IS! It’s only October! And the first week of October at that! It’s bad enough that shops already have Hallowe’en decorations in their window displays! And that you can already buy mince pies at the coop in Uppermill! It’s too early!!

And then, presumably because I express an interest in or even “follow” certain musicians on Facebook, something called “Events You May Like”, also on Facebook, suggests I might like The Take That Experience, in Altrincham. Errrr, no! Why would I? 

I was, however, taken back in time to the days when the bus into Manchester would take me past the house where Mark Owen, one of the group, lived and bunches of teenage girls sat on the garden wall just staring at the closed curtains. And that was before you could follow anybody on Instagram or anywhere else, unless you happened to see them on the street! 

But I do like to find interest bits on social media from the likes of Michael Rosen. Here’s one example:

“Michael Rosen

I watch the film

of me coming out of the coma.

The prof says, ‘We didn’t know 

if Michael would be brain dead

or not.’

One eye was staring out

at the world 

permanently dilated 

the pupil dark and still.

A dead brain?

The human gone.

I don’t think it happened. 

I do think.”

We all need to think. 

Another little gem thrown up by a friend on Facebook is the fact that a London secondary school has “banned” its pupils from using slang, with phrases on the prohibited list including “that’s long”, “bare” and “oh my days”. It seems that a London secondary school has “banned” its pupils from using slang, with phrases on the prohibited list including “that’s long”, “bare” and “oh my days”. The school said the words have been “showing up a lot in pupils’ work”, and that they intend to “help students understand the importance of expressing themselves clearly and accurately, not least through written language in examinations”. 

Well, yes, fair enough. I remember a time when our daughter had two registers of language: one for speaking at home, to is and the visiting member of the family, and another for out and about with her friends. She always knew which one to use in her written work though. It’s really rather annoying when an interviewee peppers their answers with “like” every few words. And the school in question recognises that their students can talk however they like outside of the classroom. Sensible move!

The list of banned words also includes an expression I’ve never heard before: the phrase “he cut eyes at me”, which refers to looking at someone with disapproval or displeasure. Apparently the phrase originated in and around the African countries of Ghana and Nigeria and began as a show of anger and conflict between two people.

Thinking of language use, a UK judge has ruled that calling women “birds” is “plainly sexist,” and even using the term jokingly is “foolish” in a landmark discrimination case. An investment banker at Barclays Bank brought the case against her boss who said he used it in a lighthearted way, intending to be funny. She complained but he continued. And now she has won compensation. There you go!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

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