I am a huge fan and user of modern technology. I recognise the opportunities it brings to organise one’s life, give access to a vast array of information and mis-information via the Internet, and its potential to revolutionize learning for all.
Advances in technology do not always mean progress. This is especially true when considering the potential harm of social media, which I am learning first hand! In the past few weeks I have had my Twitter account hacked, sending out messages to my followers about users who had made unkind comments as well as recommending ways to lose weight without altering one’s diet! If only it were true! I have also been sent Facebook comments which are at best unhelpful and do nothing to illuminate mis-understandings or seek answers to questions that would be best expressed face to face or in a telephone conversation. Posting a message on Facebook does not help answer a question or seek clarification on an issue.
It’s easy to hide behind ‘anonymous’ emails, tweets and Facebook comments and take comfort in the avatar of a virtual existence. I know from issues that are increasing coming into school, that we are all affected, including pupils who can be subjected to ‘cyber-bullying’. Many of our children have Facebook accounts, even though the minimum age for holding such an online account is 13 years. Children are easily upset when they receive unkind comments or ‘friends’ dislike their comments or photographs.
Social media is a wonderful tool for keeping in touch with family and friends across great distances, sharing ideas and making introductions. But none of this is a substitute for meeting real people, seeing their expressions, hearing their voice, shaking their hands and looking them in the eye. If we are not selective in the way we use Facebook, a generation will grow up with 1,000 on-line friends, but a deep loss that is the rich tapestry of human interaction.