THE PROS & CONS OF SOCIAL MEDIA
As with many octogenarians I came to social media late. My children and grandchildren were fully familiar with it by the time I finally arrived on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The fact is, I probably wouldn’t have bothered with any of it if my publisher hadn’t said it would be good in helping to sell my books. With some trepidation I cautiously started with Facebook and the immediate joy I found is that I could make contact with those abroad, or forgotten friends from the past who I otherwise would have lost contact with. It felt good to share opinions with like-minded souls and occasionally be surprised at how diverse these opinions could be! I liked it that contributions on Facebook were often accompanied by photographs and fascinating documents. A time to catch up on people’s lives. Inevitably Facebook covers many appeals for charities and good causes, accompanied by harrowing pictures of bombed cities and starving children. Scrolling down you are likely to hear famous stars of stage and screen appealing for help with Syria, Yemen and of course now Ukraine. These I do not mind, and it is good to be reminded and to contribute when one can. What does worry me is that these graphic visions of suffering should be followed by photographs of rich meals or recipes that have been put on, tempting us to indulge. They are in such contrast with pictures of skeletal children, any pleasure you might take in these sumptuous feasts is quickly tempered by guilt.
I tend to skim through Facebook now and it doesn’t take up much of my time. It is the same with Instagram. I have kept my followers to a minimum but even so, annoyingly they will creep in unasked and I’m suddenly bombarded with photographs from people of whom I’ve never heard. So Instagram can also be a time-waster.
Then we come to Twitter. I began very slowly on this and looking back I realise it was very different when I started. At the beginning I didn’t really offer opinions, only occasionally putting on a photograph of a park in Spring, a garden in summer or a gallery and exhibition visited. I gradually picked up followers and most interesting of all, on the whole these followers were not those I knew, just like-minded people expressing similar views. At this point I spent no more than ten minutes a day skimming through. Not so now. It all really changed with Trump. Political opinions crept in and basically took over. Trump was followed by Boris Johnson and the full horrors of populist politicians with right wing leanings now becoming apparent. Also apparent was the creeping realisation of the corruption within government. Brexit and two years of Covid followed and Twitter became full of harrowing stories of the suffering of people through the harsh lockdown rules. And now? Now Twitter is angry and giving full vent to the fury people are feeling. Brexit is shown to be failing, we had the Paterson debacle and Partygate unfolding. And now the horrors of Ukraine. My ten minutes early morning Twitter time has increased to thirty minutes. I have found my Twitter voice. Having been a rather passive liberal in the past, recent events have sent me into vocal anger at the ruination of the country through its leadership and morals, in the hands of Johnson and his inadequate Tory cabinet. Every department of government has failed and Twitter has given me a chance to express my opinions. I have collected like-minded followers and it has become like a crusade. The other great advantage of Twitter is that contributions are limited in length and thus have to remain short and pithy!
However, as always, there is a downside to this. All too often there can be views where vicious, unfair and personal attacks are made. Certain individuals have been targeted quite unfairly, most of all the unfortunate Meghan Markle. It is here the danger of fake news comes in. When on Twitter it is advisable to sort what is true, from sheer malice. However, at least there is some regulation and Trump has gone! I also dislike the continual use of swear words. Strong views can be expressed perfectly adequately and with force, without resorting to 4 letter words. But properly used, Twitter can be used for driving forward change – which can only be regarded as a good thing.
Apart from all this, Easter came and went, the weather beautiful, giving us a brief respite from the horrors abroad and at home. I spent it in the garden – absolute bliss.