The not so social side of media

Social Media. What a strange and frequently misleading name that is.

I often think that social media, and twitter in particular, is like being in a busy local pub, with a cross section of people all having opinions, some more vociferous than others, having a laugh, chatting about the telly and listening to songs on the jukebox.

The twitter I inhabited from around the time of the referendum until recently was like going into that dodgy pub down the road where everything you say could potentially, and often did, cause a punch-up.

Since the disastrous Brexit vote, using social media has really shown its nasty side. Initially the divide was between brexiters and remainers with point scoring on ‘facts’ being the main topic of interaction (and yes I hold my hand up for frustrated tweets and Facebook posts). However as time has evolved not only has the war continued between these factions but increasingly there has been a rise in demonisation within the remain camp of those who don’t share the same political views. To be part of the remainer ‘clique’ it appears that you must only support the Lib Dems and/or attach yourself to a centrist group to defeat Brexit (at any costs, without any manifesto and led by someone with an interesting political past).

To be clear about my position I have always been a Labour supporter, never waivering but recently have found the political leadership and manifestos of the Green Party growing in appeal. My voting constituency of the past 30 years has more often than not, not had a Labour candidate stand, so limited options have led to voting tactically for Lib Dems despite not feeling confident of their ability (borne out in their appalling coalition behaviour in my view). My initial joy at the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party, someone who I thought would put Labour back on track to their ethos of a party representing the left of politics, has subsequently wained as he pursues a stance on Brexit that I believe is more about appeasing and attracting ukip supporters than actually representing the many he purports to be representing. So I’m red with splodges of green and I wear my political heart openly.

A visit to twitter whilst being open about your politics was no longer a fun way to while away some time, no longer could you assume that like-minded folk would happily debate stuff and put the world to rights with you….. a visit to twitter was filled with trepidation.

After a lot of thought about whether to give up on twitter I finally took the decision to unfollow some people who were making a visit there less pleasant than it should be (along with others who never interact or only tweet misery). As for Facebook well I keep my friends there to a minimum and tolerate the odd one or two who hold views that I find unpalatable so that’s manageable and serves its main purpose (for me) of sharing and seeing family photos. And Instagram is just a fun way to show off your life in photos and never, in my experience, crosses the barrier to nastiness.

The result has been a better experience of social media, with Twitter in particular harking back to the good old days of fun banter with a balance of opinion on everything from politics to tv, food and clothes.

From now on I’ll stick to my local, it’s much more sociable.

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The art of communication

When I first moved away from home at the age of 18 I stayed in a hostel in Knightsbridge, a wonderful location which I never took advantage of but at that age I wasn't interested in history or culture. I've made up for it since.

I had two options for contacting my family, a telephone box in front of the Albert Memorial or writing letters. As my parents didn't have a home phone at that time it was always the latter but I'd use the phone box to call my boyfriend back in Suffolk. The first time I did this I'd splashed out on false nails earlier that evening (clearly I was going for the sophisticated look) and as I settled into the phone box and put my fingers in the dial I realised I couldn't actually move the dial as I had only nail in the hole. I had to rip the false nails off before I could call him. End of sophistication.

The weekly letters I used to receive from my Mum were a joy. It was like having a chat with her, she wrote about exactly the things she'd have said to me if I was sitting in the kitchen with her. I still have those letters and occasionally I read them, they're a great way to keep her memory alive for me.

Now 40 years later and living away from my family, technology means instant communication and this is what makes the distance away from them so much easier. I dread to think now how my Mum must've felt when I moved away. Now it would be awful for me if I didn't have the ease of communication with family.

The joy of receiving a WhatsApp message or a video call is wonderful. The ping of the incoming message must the the equivalent of my Mum hearing the thump on the doormat of a letter arriving. Now instead of eagerly ripping open the envelope to devour the latest news from home it's a quick swipe of the phone screen to reveal the full message before I reply.

Occasionally I still send snail mail to my daughters, just a few silly words in a card and sometimes I receive the same from them, there still is nothing quite like a handwritten note, however short.

I hope the art of writing notes or letters never dies, re-reading them gives a thrill that re-reading WhatsApps could never recreate, although trust me I do keep all my electronic communications with my family.

Today so far I've chatted with one daughter in Vietnam, the other daughter in London, a nephew and two of my sisters in Suffolk and lovely friends in Northumberland and Bristol. All from the sunlounger on my terrace in France.

Technology is pretty good isn't it?