Allan Takes Aim Blog

Are social sites really social

Posted on: 1 September 2011


First published The Chronicle, Canberra, Tuesday 30 August,2011 

When elections get closer, politicians not only say they have the answers to existing problems but also policies that will ensure these problems won’t occur again. If only one could believe them. Forgive my scepticism but these statements are merely the re-iteration  of statements that politicians make before every election.

I have heard such statements many times over and expect to hear them again before the ACT election in October next year and before the next Federal election, whose date seems to depend on how the government in office perceives its chances of being re-elected. Has this happened because the crystal balls politicians once used use to discover what the future held have cracked or fogged over as, breathing heavily with expectation, they sat peering intensely into their depths or because they have turned to technology?

Metaphorically speaking the technology now being used is Face book and Twitter because these days these are the crystal balls, runes and entrails of chickens that once upon a time politicians used to divine the future. You can make up your own mind.

To read this technology they use a lap top or table top computer or one of the range  of communication devices – mobile phones, smartphones, tablets etc – that every politician now seems to think they need to avoid voters thinking of them as not very ‘with it.’Politicians and many other people swear by these devices, athough I know many others who swear at them. 

Increasingly, and apart from Face Book and Twitter, politicians also use you Tube and myriad other sites too numerous to mention. And while I can understand politicians wishing to be seen as ‘with it,’ there’s a feeling growing in some quarters of the community that these sites are more anti social than social.

In some respects also, the sites could be called the Andy Warhols because they give many people, too many some say, the opportunity for fifteen minutes of fame. That would be fine if fifteen minutes was all the time they wanted. Unfortunately fame and its many faces can become an addiction. Indeed some people become so addicted they spend most of every day on social sites trying to add to it.

In many cases too, these people are either illiterate or ill; in some cases both. And much as their illiteracy or Illness can be guessed at by what they put on the site, it seems little can be done to help them. In part this is due to the technology keeping their location secret, while any attempt to help them might be seen as an invasion of privacy.  

This concerns me, particularly when I hear of, or read reports which say, in effect, that because contributors to these sites have limited capacity to present news in depth the brief information they present can be wrongly interpreted and, albeit unintentionally, create dangerous situations.

Unfortunately on more than one occasion the wrong interpretation of a message has led to people becoming involved in serious anti social behaviour. Worse still, others have become suicidal. 

It would be wrong to think I am suggesting that any politician in any of our parliaments has become addicted to fame or that their bursts of messages on various sites indicate illiteracy or illness.  But I would be less than honest if I didn’t say the thought has never crossed my mind.

What do you think? For example: do you think Julia Gillard, Wayne Swan, Kevin Rudd, Tony Abbot, Joe Hockey, Julie Bishop, Bob Brown and Lee Rhiannon are fame addicts or is it that all politicians are naturally so? I would be doing some politicans and others who want to be politicians a dis-service if I believed this to be the case. On the other hand I know one or two politicians whose problem seems to be narcissism rather than addiction to fame.

I admit also that I am an occasional user of use these sites because I believe communication technology plays a major role in life today and that, in days to come, it will play an even greater role. At times, nevertheless, I find myself in agreement with people who think such sites anti social.

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